The Cringe

Tipping Point

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Throughout the first half of 2007, this explosive N.Y. based band's lead singer, guitarist and dominant songwriter John Cusimano became a tabloid staple for all the wrong reasons: as the husband of Food Network icon Rachael Ray, involved in a swirl of rumors about their marriage. In a perfect world, he and his three Cringe cohorts -- lead guitarist Robb Levin, bassist Matt Powers and drummer Shawn Pelton -- deserved mainstream exposure for being the current decade's answer to the Foo Fighters, not for the travails of their personal lives. Cusimano's infectious and insightful songwriting is the foundation for the band's dynamic mix of artful, harmonic power pop and raw aggressive punk garage band energy. While Tipping Point, their second disc, has the perfect mix of blistering energy and thoughtful contemplation for these troubled times -- a dichotomy perfectly captured on key tracks like the brooding anti-war anthem "Freedom Ban" and the wild, spirited punk party jam "Undone" -- the Cringe was also committed to the old-school truth of analog recording here. Having played with the likes of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, Pelton felt right at home, as he put it, "going back to '78." The idea wasn't simply to go retro for retro's sake, however -- it was to convey the raw fire of the band's live shows, which they do perfectly on crisp, blistering rockers like "Coming Home" and "Fade Out." The Cringe is equally compelling on moodier tunes like the painfully emotional "Patient Man" (which finds Cusimano in a wistful, Eddie Vedder-inspired mode) and the heartbreaking "Chosen One." They're also cool with tongue in cheek social commentary on another instant classic, the scorching and punkish "California," which includes some of Cusimano's vocals filtered through a megaphone as it tackles the dual reality of "farms and vineyards/with your whores and sinners." But even these New Yorkers realize that they "just can't escape you." Like all great rock bands, the Cringe were chroniclers of their times, mixing darkness in with the light, and inspiring us to feel energized during the wild trip through the jungle of emotions.

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