Hootie & the Blowfish

Hootie & the Blowfish

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It's been five years since listeners last heard from Hootie & the Blowfish (not counting 2000's odds-and-ends assortment Scattered, Smothered and Covered), and those who might have been expecting a dramatic departure from the radio-friendly guitar rock of the band's previous three regular albums will be either relieved or disappointed, depending on how they felt about it to begin with. But make no mistake: Those who accuse this band of being lightweight and terminally poppy are not only missing the point, they are also giving in to the worst kind of rock & roll snobbery -- the kind that says pop music really ought to be anything other than fun. On the other hand, those who accuse frontman Darius Rucker of sometimes delivering his lightweight, poppy songs with a bombast that is all out of proportion to their substance are actually onto something: Just consider the chesty roar with which he delivers couplets about, for example, minor domestic and emotional discomfort ("You need a little space/And I need mine"). But unlike Bono or Creed's Scott Stapp, Rucker's mistake is not in taking himself or his lyrics too seriously; it's just that that's the way he sings everything, and that big, chesty roar is a big part of what makes him fun to listen to. Mainly, of course, what make him fun to listen to are his songs' irresistible hooks, and this album has those in spades: "Deeper Side," the country-inflected "Little Darlin'" (which cries out to be covered by the Blasters), and a respectful cover version of the Continental Drifters' "Rain Song" are all perfect for singing along with in the car, while "Tears Fall Down" and the power ballad "Innocence" should have even the most jaded power pop snob digging in his jeans for a lighter. They're not trying to save the world, folks -- this is just rock & roll. And most people who say they don't like it are kidding themselves.

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