Various Artists

MTV2 Handpicked

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This various-artists album dedicated to rock performers and tied into MTV2's Handpicked special is enough to convince anyone concerned with the state of rock that there's nothing to worry about. The artists are at different points in their careers, with some well-established names, some that were recently established at the time that the album was released, some in the first flush of success, and some unknown. The big stars are Radiohead and Cake, with Coldplay and David Gray also joining the million-seller class, the Crystal Method and Five for Fighting nearly as successful, and Travis, Pete Yorn, Lo Fidelity Allstars, Ryan Adams, Stereomud, and the side project Tenacious D (featuring members of Foo Fighters and Phish) ranking as developing acts. There are familiar songs such as Five for Fighting's "Superman (It's Not Easy)" and Gray's "Babylon," but all the material is engaging, particularly Cake's "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" and Tenacious D's "Wonderboy." The dominant style is hard rock, though the Crystal Method takes an electronic dance approach and there is a mini-set of what are essentially folk-rock singer/songwriters (Gray, Adams, Five for Fighting's John Ondrasik) sequenced together in the middle of the disc. None of the unknown performers really stick out, except in a bad way -- Remy Zero's "Save Me" reveals a particularly slavish U2 wannabe. But there is enough variety and enough quality to suggest that there will be plenty of good hard rock for some time to come.

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