William Tell

You Can Hold Me Down

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There may be some irony in William Tell, former guitarist for Something Corporate, turning into something of a corporate rocker as he goes solo with 2007's You Can Hold Me Down, but then again, his old band never quite shied away from sounding like melodic corporate rock, either. Something Corporate always placed a stronger emphasis on pop than punk in their punk-pop -- how could they not when their leader played piano and idolized Ben Folds? -- to the extent that they never quite seemed punk, a sentiment that certainly carries over to You Can Hold Me Down, a record so polished that it positively glistens. Apart from an emo-styled sincerity in his lyrics (extending to his casual use of profanity) and how his sweet, plain voice quivers when he reaches for the big emotional notes, this album has no ties to any kind of underground music: it's a pop record and a middle-of-the-road one at that, filled with songs about love won and lost, all separated into navel-gazing power ballads and surging midtempo tunes that visibly strain at anthemic hooks they don't quite achieve. Tell isn't a particularly distinctive singer, but he's friendly enough to make these matter-of-fact tunes feel relatable and it helps that he can occasionally craft a good hook, as in the opener, "Jeannie," or the bouncy L.A. nightclub putdown "Fairfax (You're Still the Same)," which is helped immeasurably by the presence of his former Something Corporate cohort Andrew McMahon. These livelier numbers are where You Can Hold Me Down pulls listeners in -- in every way, they're the ones with the hooks -- but only those who find his sensitive pretty-boy persona charming will stick around for the rest, as they fall into that weird middle ground of sounding way too corporate for the underground and not tuneful enough for the mainstream audience for which it was designed.

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