Eastern Conference Champions


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The members of Eastern Conference Champions previously did time in Laguardia -- major-label hopefuls with a serious Radiohead jones -- and CKY -- post-grunge metal-punk skateboarders and Warped Tour veterans. Mashing the two acts together gets you in the general vicinity of their full-length debut, Ameritown, but think bigger, brighter, and much more uplifting, and you're closer to the sound of this hybrid kid. With Laguardia, lead vocalist/keyboardist Joshua Ostrander sounded a heck of a lot like Radiohead's Thom Yorke. Here he sounds like Rufus Wainwright meets Billy Corgan, and the songs, the band, the whole album follow suit, creating a wonderfully vibrant brand of cabaret pop that sometimes rocks out -- as on "Noah," a key track that spins like a top and plays it tight, so tight that if you listen close, you suddenly realize that the great trick of ECC is that they are a power trio underneath all these layers. While overdubs play a significant role -- enough to say the band must sound very different live -- bassist Vern Zaborowski and drummer Greg Lyons are able to make all of Ostrander's elaborate ideas sound alive like those two guys behind Ben Folds can. The backbeat and the guitars make things rock, but like the Ben Folds Five, Eastern Conference Champions are a keyboard-driven band musically and smart-ass with the lyrics (track six's naughty title is only the beginning of their nerdy bitchiness). As busy as it is exciting, Ameritown could stand one more instantly gripping song to temper all the twists and turns, but with each listen it matters less and less.

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