The Spinatras

@Midnight.Com

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On their debut album, @Midnight.Com, the Spinatras sound like a hard-rock band who initially fell in love with high voltage and monster riffs, eventually learning to love poppy hooks and jokes. They wind up in a strange netherworld, somewhere between hard-rocking bar bands and power-poppers. There's little question that the Spinatras are a hard-rock band at their core; they just happen to use pop songs as their vehicle, and they like a good laugh. As a result, they come across a little bit like Cheap Trick. Thing is, the key to Cheap Trick is that Rick Nielsen never overplayed his hand as a songwriter. Whenever he had a joke, it was delivered slyly -- the hooks and the song took center stage. Only after a little bit of inspection did the humor shine through. The Spinatras take the opposite approach. They start with the joke, maybe an odd riff or two, then wrap it all up into a song. At times, they have a good hook, and they often sound as tight as a well-oiled machine, but @Midnight.Com rarely gels -- at least in the way they'd like it to. The main problem is that the jokes are ham-fisted, even embarrassing. For instance, "Michelle" works up a fair head of steam, but the punch line -- "I could be her cool rider/ We could just hang out/ Me and Michelle Pfieffer" -- stalls momentum. This isn't the only incident of this on the album, nor is it the worst ("Ketchup" -- as in "You're always playin' ketchup to the Jones'" -- probably is), it's merely emblematic. Consequently, @Midnight.Com feels like a debut -- moments of inspiration (musical) coupled with awkward stumbles (lyrics). True fans of hard-rocking pop will be able to sift through the record, separating the good from the bad.

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