Virginia Coalition

OK to Go

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Virginia Coalition, or VACO, as their fans like to call them, take another step in their gradual evolution into a national act with their fourth album, OK to Go, their first to be issued by an independent label, bluhammock music, rather than being self-released on their own DNC imprint. (Its predecessor, 2003's Rock & Roll Party, was picked up for national distribution by Koch.) It finds them firmly in the mold of the standard American indie rock band, as defined from the 1980s onward (and explicitly evoking the sound of four-man-band guitar rock dating back to the '60s). Andrew Poliakoff has one of those sturdy, slightly gruff baritones, placed high in the mix, that always characterizes such ensembles, and the band, usually led by noisy or chiming electric guitars and four-on-the-floor drumming, churns along under him. Starting out with "Pick Your Poison," the sound is melodic hard rock reminiscent of R.E.M. (or, more recently, Gin Blossoms), and the rock gets progressively softer as the disc reaches its middle, with the acoustic guitars broken out by the time of the fourth track, "Voyager 2." But after the warning "Get ready," things turn back to rock for "Abby Are You Endless." "Meteor" sounds like simplified Steely Dan, but on "Come and Go," Virginia Coalition finally succeeds in capturing the sound of its most direct influence, Hootie & the Blowfish. Poliakoff's voice is not as deep or distinctive as that of Hootie's Darius Rucker, but his Virginia-based band aspires to the same kind of mainstream pop/rock perfected by the South Carolina quartet. And that's despite some self-conscious hip-hop referencing, notably the hidden track that kicks in after "Bumpin' Fresh," a version of Blackstreet's 1996 hit "No Diggity."

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