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Byzantium
Deep Blue Something
Interscope/RainMaker (import)

The most clever thing Aden Holt--of Caulk and One Ton notoriety--has ever produced is a silk-screened T-shirt that read "Deep Blow Someone." The towering lad wore it around Dallas a few years back when the pablum hit "Breakfast At Tiffany's," that insipid tune that delighted grade-schoolers and wanna-be-hip moms alike, was all over the radio, driving the burgeoning Dallas music scene into repulsed, self-imposed exile. If songwriting of such ingratiating incentive led the way to a label contract and commercial success, then where the hell did that leave the good bands? Not anywhere near the radio, that's for sure.

Deep Blue Something, Dallas' very own Bay City Rollers, has a new record out, Byzantium, with--count 'em!--15 new cuts of genre-by-numbers pop, all mired in a shallow swamp of metal, funk, jazz (!), '80s anthems, and Savage Garden balladry. Luckily, this is thus far an overseas-only release (it'll cost you at least 30 bucks stateside, and you will pay); fitting too, seeing as how the Rollers were real big in Japan.

The album's 65 minutes could well be the calling-card of any jingle writer or session man: The first cut, "Daybreak and a Candle End" (an exclusive bonus to this import release), immediately introduces a shellacked, Pepsi-commercial-by-the-Fixx sort of shadowy thump and windy atmosphere; the heavy effects swirling around frontman Todd Pipes' vocals don't begin to bolster his thin-as-air tenor. And so it goes, down the list, song-by-song: "She Is" is a shameless Weezer rip-off; "Everything" lifts all but the tube socks from the Chili Peppers' "Give it Away"; "Tonight" (also featured on the BASEketball soundtrack) could be sampled directly from The Psychedelic Furs' "Pretty in Pink," with a horn section tossed in for good measure. This band wouldn't understand personal distinction if someone broke a big, fizzy bottle of it in their collective face. Identity? Integrity? Where Deep Blue Something lives (in Narnia, judging from the oft-mystic lyrics), such notions are a one-way, nonstop ticket to non-commercial hell. The band and its local RainMaker brothers, the Grand Street Cryers, have proudly redefined versatility to mean watered-down crap.

Ah, but the band knows its audience, and invites allowance-spending boys and girls to sit on its harmless, clean lap. For every guitar-heavy stab at hard rock ("Cherry Lime Ricky," "William H. Bonney"), there's a gentle, lilting ballad any ninth-grade chick will swoon to in the privacy of her bedroom, especially with lyrics like "Be my all, my, be my own" ("Enough To Get By"). The whole would be an excellent study in schizophrenia if it weren't so calculated. But don't worry, kids: Byzantium will find U.S. release soon enough--likely just after DBS play a sold-out show at Budokan.

--Christina Rees

 
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