Nuclear Love

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Poptones is the new-ish label run by Alan McGee. He used to run Creation, home to many great bands and a storied history -- and power pop updaters Velvet Crush. McGee must have really loved Velvet Crush because he went out and signed Thomson to Poptones. Thomson sound almost exactly like Velvet Crush. Well, more like Velvet Crush with Matthew Sweet on lead vocals. In case you weren't keeping score, Velvet Crush have the following: loud chiming guitars, arena rock guitar solos, classic chord changes, sweet vocal harmonies, and a slight country tinge at times. Thomson have all that too. The one thing about Velvet Crush that needed improvement was Paul Chastain's gravelly, sometimes oversang lead vocals. Ian and David Thomson have solved that by adding sweet as rock candy vocals to their sound. Their songs are not as immediately catchy as VC's or Matthew Sweet's, but there are no clunkers either. Indeed there are some highlights: "Loaded Dice" is a nice acoustic number with some sad pedal steel and absolutely gorgeous vocals, and "How We Have to Live" is a sad lament that borrows (for a change of pace) from Neil Young and has an epic feel that Velvet Crush never exhibited. Actually, it is hard to know whether the song is actually good or if it just stands out because it is not hopelessly derivative of Velvet Crush and Matthew Sweet. It is pretty mediocre on second thought. The whole record suffers fatally from an overabundance of derivation and mediocrity Sure, some the songs are strong, the performances mostly solid, and the vocals frequently breathtaking, but how can you stand behind a record that so thoroughly apes another band -- and has the gall to be boring while doing so? Nothing separates Thomson from the scores of other bands treading the same already-trod-upon ground of the pop underground. Well, nothing but the support of McGee. Help him see the error of his ways in this case by giving Thomson's debut record the cold shoulder. He probably should have just gone ahead and signed Velvet Crush.

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