Different Shades of Beauty

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After a strong if somewhat conventional debut album showing that the quartet really loved any number of artistic goth and shoegaze forebears, Tearwave's sophomore effort, Different Shades of Beauty, aims for the grand -- a full CD's worth of songs at 77 minutes -- and raises its game considerably as a result. While still happily working within the general style, the Buffalo group sounds much more direct than before -- something like the spiraling up-and-down riffs and clearer singing on the opening "Shattered Fairytale" has a surging confidence at work. It's readily audible at many points throughout the album, such as "Reflection," with piano and John Stephanski's crashing drums carrying a huge feedback swell up and out, and the multi-part "Read Me," especially its staccato, extended conclusion. If much of the album sticks to a steady pace -- not too slow to drag, not so fast as to charge ahead fully -- exceptions provide variety, such as "Nothing's Wrong," with a killer chorus not all that removed from early 21st century radio rock, immediate and memorable, and the ethereal heartbeat-paced closer, "72 BPM," all echo and distorted vocals resulting in a calm conclusion for the whole listen. Meanwhile, there's also an enjoyable nod to a forebear with a cover of the Church's "Under the Milky Way" -- if the band doesn't do much with the arrangement beyond a slightly slower pace (and the squalling guitar solo that replaces the synth bagpipes of the original, not entirely successfully), it's still a good tip of the hat to one of the moodiest pop hits to ever make the charts (though credit as well to the brief fragment of Catherine Wheel's "Black Metallic" that concludes "Ripped Apart").

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