American Catapult

Trees of Mystery

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Southern California's American Catapult (known as AmCat to insiders), with their emphasis on chiming melodic guitars and no-frills, straight-ahead, crunchy rock, have been compared to early R.E.M., and there's some validity to that. Singer Tom Townsend's phrasing, not always but occasionally, is not unlike that of pre-major label Michael Stipe (without the marble-mouth), and there is a similar forward-motion forcefulness to the band's approach. Lyrically, Townsend appears to harbor an obsession with lost time and bygone innocence -- he's neither the first nor will he be the last to do so -- and when he's not expressing regrets he's quite often wallowing in nostalgia. Still, there are a few fine musical moments: the record gets off to a promising start with "This Time," with its piled-on guitars, and the title track, whose evocative lyrics and thundering rhythm section offer great promise for what's to come. But it soon bogs down in unoriginality, the initial promise never fully delivered -- too many songs begin to sound samey, and only the few acoustic-based tracks (notably "Crooked Straight" and "S.O.S.") offer enough personality to distinguish the band. There's potential here for sure, but American Catapult needs to find its own voice and something substantial to impart before that can be realized.

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