Fool's Garden

For Sale

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German quintet Fool's Garden's fourth album combines a fondness for radio-friendly pop with what, on paper, would seem like a contradictory affection for AOR/prog rock atmospherics -- splashy guitar solos and wailing strings. In reality, the formula works decently enough most of the time, producing a bunch of songs that are tuneful and accessible, if occasionally prone to excess. A good half of the songs on For Sale are cast in the chirpy, bouncy mold of Fool's Garden's one hit to date, 1998's "Lemon Tree." "Suzy" steals Robert Plant's vocal wail at the end of "Stairway to Heaven" and turns it into a synth riff on a song that already boasts an inescapable vocal hook and an infectious, sub-reggae rhythm. "Pure" sounds like it escaped off the Beatles' Anthology. And "Allright" is tuneful all right, but would have fared better, perhaps, if guitarist Volker Hinkel hadn't used it as a forum to air his chops so emphatically. When the band chooses to indulge its fondness for easy pathos, it results in overproduced, melodramatic tunes that just cry out for a lighter touch -- like "Save Me." This failing is what makes For Sale no more than eminently listenable. Next time, perhaps, Fool's Garden will go on to make the joyous full-on pop album that seems to be trying to emerge from the failed experiments on display here.

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