Mars Electric

Beautiful Something

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You have to give credit to superstar A&R man John Kalodner, who actually tries to start trends. With the Birmingham, AL-based rock quartet Mars Electric, he is trying to lead the music scene back toward melodic hard rock, which in recent years has been a no-man's land. It's not hard to see what attracted Kalodner to Mars Electric: if there was ever a rock star wannabe, it is frontman Jacob Bunton. Star power is a very important part of popular music, which Bunton appears to understand as well as Kalodner does. The next question, however, is whether the band, and more importantly the record, can back up the image. You get the feeling that Kalodner and producer Greg Archilla had to work hard to give Bunton's songs and the band's performances a greater pop sheen than they had originally. The arrangements are tight and riff-heavy, though balancing carefully between rock and pop, and the band sounds like one that has honed its sound in live performance, even if Michael Swann has been brought in to play lead guitar on four tracks. The chief weakness, unfortunately, is Bunton's voice. He is possessed of an inexpressive baritone that has been pushed way up in the mix and tends to keep the tracks from being as exciting as they seem meant to be. All of which means that Mars Electric is a gamble, but no more so than a band trying to sound like something at the top of the charts. The right single, a good video that makes Jacob Bunton look like a star, and a good summer tour slot, and Mars Electric might break; that may not be a likely scenario, but then stardom never seems likely until it happens, when it immediately seems to have been inevitable.

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