The Brodys

Unexamined Life

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On Unexamined Life, the Brodys repeat the '80s-style punk-pop formula that made songs like "Toss" and "Beer Truck Driver" minor regional hits. Unfortunately, the northern California band's latest release lacks the earthy yet witty lyrics and catchy hooks of past successes. The two opening songs, "Unexamined Life" and "Burnout," tantalize the listener with blazing guitar solos and punked-out codas. Yet the album quickly degenerates from there. The lyrics, tackling subjects such as failed friendships, childhood nostalgia, and social ostracism, often lack either sense ("Doll House," "Confidence") or are just painfully corny ("Have a Good Summer," "Xmas '79," "Next Life"). But the problem isn't simply lyrical. Nor is the music unlistenable. It's not. In fact, most songs offer inoffensive, agreeable tunes reminiscent of Rancid and Everclear's more radio-friendly singles. And after a few beers -- which would probably be the state the band's target audience of frat boys and barflies would be in, anyway -- they probably wouldn't sound half-bad. The problem is, despite the interminable choruses with refrains repeated so often they seem to bludgeon the listener into mouthing the lines, the songs are completely forgettable. "Toss" and "Beer Truck Driver" weren't Dylan, but they had an edge, a drive that encouraged a repeat listen. Unexamined Life tries hard to be a solid, well-played, digestible album. And it is. Unfortunately, it's a mediocre one, too.

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