Singer/songwriter Sean Altman is hardly the only alternative pop-rocker who has a cynical outlook and spends a lot of time kvetching. But Altman does it with more humor and wit than many of his peers; lyrically, Alt.mania is definitely a cut above most of the "life sucks" albums that came out in 2002. The native New Yorker isn't a blues or country artist -- his hook-filed songs are best described as "alternative power pop" -- but like so many blues and country artists, he often finds very clever ways to tell you how disappointing his life is. Like Buck Owens' "Act Naturally" or Jerry Lee Lewis' "What Made Milwaukee Famous," the tunes on Alt.mania have a way of making you smile even though they are full of hurt and disillusionment. Altman, who has a knack for self-deprecating humor, certainly isn't afraid to have a good laugh at his own expense. And even if the New Yorker is, at times, a bit too precious and cutesy for his own good, he provides so many memorable lyrics that one can easily forgive his excesses. Musically, Alt.mania is not typical of pop/rock releases that came out in 2002. The tuneful Altman, who likes a good hook, obviously realizes that rock did not start with Nirvana and Pearl Jam -- and during the course of the album, he is influenced by everything from doo wop and '60s British Invasion rock to early-'80s new wave. Lyrically, Alt.mania is the essence of cynicism and disillusionment, but musically, it has a certain brightness. And that is the thing that makes Altman such an interesting anomaly -- few people could combine dark lyrics and bright, shiny melodies as effectively as Altman, whose Alt.mania falls short of perfect but is still among 2002's more memorable pop/rock efforts.
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