Blue Hour

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Three former members of Bullet Lavolta are in some of the U.S.'s most steamy groups. Certainly Moving Targets (or Kenny Chambers solo, if he has disbanded that group) is one of the best bands in the country, and Chavez are making different sort of waves too. And even the highly regarded Juliana Hatfield Three housed a BLV member. Likewise, Boston trio Smackmelon has also emerged on their second LP as one of this country's most promising. Singer/guitarist Duke Roth stakes his claim as a major talent with a batch of consistent songs led by his crunchy, punkish, power chord guitars and a voice that has the fluid, gravelly but soaring quality that once distinguished the Micronotz's Jay Hauptli, or, for that matter, Chambers. (In fact, much of the band's setup and sound is similar to Chambers' stunning Targets, with help from the same producer Tim O'Heir.) Even better, Roth is unafraid to reach for a floating falsetto, or other nice touches on his melodic voice, and when he does, he sounds like a dead ringer for the appealing Craig Wedren of Shudder to Think circa Ten Spot and the great Funeral at the Movies. This is especially nifty on the most unique track here, "Cappuccino," where the talented Roth throws in singular jazz chords not usually sighted in indie rock, as the rock-solid rhythm section of bassist Eric Jarmon and drummer Robert Brazier lay down an uptempo bop beat. Don't miss this song, buried near the end, it's the jewel of this CD. In fact, it's the second half where this album really hits stride; also try the craggy, scabrous waltz "Telephone." The falsetto verses on "Cappuccino" are so lovely, they indicate that with time, as they stretch out like this, Smackmelon will just keep getting better and better.

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