Restraining Bolt

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Inevitably, the focal point of Radish's debut album, Restraining Bolt, is the group's lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter, 16-year-old Ben Kweller. It's remarkable that a major label would sign a band led by such a young musician, but what is really strange is that Radish doesn't sound young. In fact, there's no trace of youthful exuberance on the record -- it is all studied and stodgy, as if it's consciously part of the long rock & roll tradition. Kweller also decides that he has to prove that he's a "serious" songwriter -- hence the anti-church-burning song, "Dear Auntie Arctica." Of course, it doesn't take tremendous guts to be against church-burning, which just illustrates the lack of imagination in Radish's music. They are certainly competent -- their pounding grunge and blues-rock is professional and accomplished, which is quite impressive for such a young band -- but the hooks are merely perfunctory and only occasionally memorable. But what really makes Restraining Bolt disheartening is Radish's yearning to be seen as serious, "mature" musicians -- there's just very little joy or real rock & roll spirit to the record.

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