Egypt Central

White Rabbit

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Lewis Carroll's children's book Alice in Wonderland seems to provide endless inspiration to filmmakers and songwriters a century after the fact, and here it has spurred the muse of a hard rock band from Memphis, Tennessee, Egypt Central, for its second album, White Rabbit. That's not Grace Slick's "White Rabbit," or, rather, it is, in the sense that she got hers from Carroll, too. The LP does not re-create the surreal classic, but the band does use it as a central metaphor, the idea of following a seemingly innocent animal into a magical, scary world. Egypt Central's White Rabbit is all about the loss of innocence, and the subtext may be the group's difficult history, having had a major-label deal shot out from under them when Atlantic's Lava division was shuttered, and having to spend years finishing their debut CD. That experience still seems fresh here, as determination becomes a major theme of the songs, alternating with a sense of despair that extends to the threat of suicide. It's the determination that wins out, for instance, on "Kick Ass," a song that also is likely to serve as a concert favorite. But "The Drug (Part I)" expresses the self-destructive side of the story. And so it goes throughout the record. Although the musicians -- Jeff James on guitar, Joey Chicago on bass, and Blake Allison on drums -- play often furious hard rock, the mix allows a few of singer John Falls' lyrics to be lost. He has a message to convey, even if it is a conflicted one. It may be that the release of the album itself tips the balance between resignation and persistence, and the songs, full of singable (and shout-able) choruses, are likely to come off as more triumphant than defeated in concert. After all, the song called "Surrender" really declares there will be none.

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