Lostprophets

Start Something

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As sonically powerful as Start Something is, and as convincing as Lostprophets' earnest vocalizing and layered instrumental dynamics are, it's just so damn difficult to take the Welshmen seriously when every megabyte of their sonic output is a patent appropriation of the post-grunge movement's most salable proofs. Incubus, Hoobastank, and Linkin Park -- close your eyes and this is what you hear, these groups' defining characteristics jammed like shards of jagged glass into the soft Lostprophets loam. The Mike Patton scream Prophets vocalist Ian Watkins perfected on 2001's Fake Sound of Progress has -- like it did for Brandon Boyd and Doug Robb -- mellowed into a blandly earnest yawp capable of keeping things thick enough for the dudes but still rife with those heartfelt intakes of breath that the ladies love. (Check "Goodbye Tonight" for examples of both styles.) As for the music, Lostprophets' twin guitars are minced and sprinkled into an easily classifiable gruel of not-quite-metal, and the rhythm section just does what it's told. The title track's marriage of an orchestral lilt to its throaty riffing seems, at first, like a satisfactory tribute to the heavy heroics of Iron Maiden or even Dream Theater. But it's soon revealed as a micro-managed cut-and-paste job, its vocals, guitars, and double bass pound separated out and repositioned by the guiding hand of marketability. Single "Last Train Home" is similarly surgical in its precision anthemics. "To every broken heart in here," Watkins emotes over faraway plinks of piano, "Love was once a part but now it's disappeared." And with that, the song's thousand-foot wall of a chorus collapses, showering impossible puffballs of lighter-flicking, crowd-surfing rubble all over the radios of suburbia. Like A.F.I.'s "Girls Not Grey" -- which launched "FOLLOW!" and "SWALLOW!" into the modern rock stratosphere -- "Last Train Home" latches onto the phrase "But we sing," and repeats it 50 times in true pop single fashion. These blatant, market-conscious tweaks malign the majority of Start Something -- even the rousing "Burn, Burn," which would have otherwise rocked -- making one wonder whether producer Adam Valentine (at the helm for Good Charlotte's Young and the Hopeless) and Sony Music Entertainment are more worried about lost profits than Lostprophets.

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