Eleven

Eleven

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Anyone who lumped Eleven in with the grunge glut of the early '90s simply wasn't paying attention. Although it's true that the trio's excellent self-titled album (actually their second) was mixed with the guitars loud and fuzzy, the musical sophistication that distinguishes Eleven -- including not only compositional prowess but sheer chops -- leaves most alternative bands in the dust. Led by the husband/wife duo of Alain Johannes (guitars and lead vocals) and Natasha Shneider (keyboards and lead vocals), their primary calling card is a pair of extraordinary voices, both of which are capable of raw intensity and soulful understatement. And, while Johanssens' formidable yet immediately distinctive six-string skills -- which employ a supersaturated, slippery legato and rich chord voicings -- is impressive, Shneider's instrumental duties -- which include not only providing the lush textural and chordal keyboard parts with her right hand, but also all of the basslines with her left, may be even more amazing. No-nonsense skinsman and former Red Hot Chili Pepper Jack Irons lays his grooves right in the pocket, giving the sometimes prog-influenced tunes a foursquare rock swagger. The band flesh out massive mid-tempo stompers like "Crash Today" and "Towers" with emotion and harmonic depth without sacrificing any of the arena-sized crunch. Eleven rocks hard and grooves from front to back, but is intercut with enough dynamic and tonal variety to make for a balanced listen. Possibly Eleven's best album, it certainly remains an underrated work.

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