I Hate Kate

Embrace the Curse

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At the heart of I Hate Kate is Justin Mauriello, former lead singer and guitarist for Orange County rap-punkers Zebrahead. It's his recognizable voice at the helm of this project, and pure pop fever -- big sticky choruses, soaring melodies -- is the apparent culprit to blame for his exit from that band and the formation of this new one. Blame might be a strong word, however, as it implies he may have made the wrong decision. But as Zebrahead's brief time in the sun arguably peaked in the early 2000s, Mauriello and I Hate Kate are poised to break into 2008's mainstream pop landscape, where fans are quick to fawn over any band with a handful of catchy hooks. And as luck would have it, hooks are certainly one thing the Kate boys do not lack. Embrace the Curse is slick and clean, enticing listeners with pristine production and stirring power pop/rock energy. The pulsing and bubbly whirlwind of "Then You Kiss" and the frothy "I'm in Love with a Sociopath" are immediate and exuberant songs, nicely balanced out by more contained (but just as catchy) tunes like the title track. Even the opener "Bed of Black Roses" builds quickly and satisfyingly from tranquil to swirling. And although everything may not be a winner -- when the band turns more to the power ballad side of things via " "Love Association" and "It's You," Mauriello's voice becomes almost grating in its expression -- it's still not enough to derail the album. This is certainly not for everyone, and fans of Mauriello's relatively edgier past may not be won over by I Hate Kate's glossy and more conventional ways. But that shouldn't worry the band, as there are plenty of other fans out there ready to embrace them; Plain White T's better watch their back.

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