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Though on initial impact this Chicago four sound a damn sight too much like Sugar (you would think so even if you didn't know that that group's gallant leader, Bob Mould, produced this), and the later songs come off way too much like Nirvana circa In Utero with less firepower, less abandon, and less chilly aura, the fact remains that Chronicles is the work of one of America's best new late-'90s bands. For one thing, such an intelligent mix of the above two titans is actually welcome, forming a leaner, less lofty, less outrageous version all its own. That one of the members is a tasteful cellist named Alison Chesley who enlivens track after track with her grieving scratch only makes Verbow more special. Moreover, singer/guitarist Jason Narducy has a voice that's a bizarre reproduction of Cobain's (freak of nature, that!) without the late blondie's metallic screech or blood-curdling screams, a resemblance that sometimes obscures the howl and engine-purring zap of Narducy's guitar-crunchy hooks. But it's a convincing voice that is actually at its best on the band's more winsome moments, such as the "Hoover Dam"-like "Man and Mile High" and the enraptured, gold-dust encrusted, more pacific pop of the LP's standout, "Holiday." Besides, with the almighty Sugar now just a memory, a new band that aspires to such a high level of songwriting, guitar sonic smack, and refreshing arrangements and chords can only grow more distinctive in its own right with several plays. Chronicles is a chronicle of great pleasures that unfold on the wings of cello strings, lending layers of delicate beauty onto a hard-rocking, senses-ringing U.S. band on the rise. Verbow's prospects as they grow more and more out of their influences are exponential.

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