Buffalo Tom

Smitten

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The perennial bridesmaids of the modern rock scene, Buffalo Tom have been flirting with mainstream success since 1992's critically acclaimed album, "Let Me Come Over." Unfortunately, though Smitten may please devoted fans, it will do little to give them the breakthrough they have long deserved. In many ways the record follows the pattern started with Let Me Come Over and its follow-up, Big Red Letter Day -- namely, alternating between a rough around the edges, feedback laden sound and a more polished studio sounding album. Whereas their last release, Sleepy Eyed drew on the fuzz of Let Me Come Over, Smitten, like Big Red Letter Day, has the mark of a "studio" album. Granted, Buffalo Tom being Buffalo Tom, studio care doesn't equal a schmaltzy Celine Dion record, but the sampled guitar loops of "Knot in It," the strings of "Scottish Windows," the horns of "White Paint Morning" and the piano and organ sprinkled throughout the album show that Buffalo Tom is trying to expand their sonic palate. Janovitz's trademark power ballads blossom wonderfully with the extra treatment and "Wiser" and "Scottish Windows" are among his best compositions. Yet, as good as a Buffalo Tom song can be, it is frustrating to hear that, in spite of the added production there always remains a certain formulaic predictability to the songs that even they can't break away from. The good news is that, unlike most current bands, Buffalo Tom have a distinct sound. The bad news is that, with many of their records sounding similar, it's easy to opt for the familiar territory of the classic Let Me Come Over, the album that pioneered their style.

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