Drama Kids

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SouthFM's debut is average, sullen 2003 major-label alternative rock, indeed the sort of alternative rock that had by 2003 become rather mainstream. Paco Estrada sings in a muted anguish to suit the uneasy, dam-of-gloom-about-to-break tone of much of the material. But the group's incessant whisper-to-a-scream sort of transitions -- the kind in which reserved guitar work becomes louder, heavier, and more thundering to build to crescendos before ebbing back for quieter passages -- had become clich├ęd throughout much rock music when this was recorded. Their heart's in the right place for those dissatisfied with the status quo, with jabs against "Corporate White America" and (in "Brick Layers") people hiding in their perfect little houses. Lyrical subtlety's not their forte, with "Dear Claudia" starting with the admonition, "you should try not to sleep with your best friend's boyfriend." Some touches of more acoustic-flavored delicacy, particularly on "Driving," aren't enough to stamp this as an original or fresh outing of these sorts of well-mined sounds and attitudes.

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