Oleander

January 13

Oleander is a droll name for a band whose lead singer's last name is Flowers--the Sacramento quartet gets its handle from the ubiquitous, dusty pink and white shrubs that "decorate" freeway medians across the land (and the blossoms are deadly poisonous, how rock and roll). Coming off at first like one of the many grunge-lite outfits whose primary modus operandi seemed to consist of saying "Long live Kurt!" in as many ways as possible, the band's first major-label foray (1999's February Son) was a churning, effective exercise in moderately polite angst. But the Nirvana comparisons proved erroneous: Unfortunately, the band sounds more like a generic (albeit pleasant) amalgamation of Stone Temple Pilots, Creed and Enuff Z' Nuff, with a soupçon of The Cure thrown in to temper the grunge prickle (the album includes a goofily inspired cover of "Boys Don't Cry," in which Flowers does indeed sound much less likely to cry than the fey, quavering Robert Smith did). Their follow-up album, Unwind, provides more guitar crunch and an occasional Beatlesque riff; "Yours If You Like" could be an updated "Dear Prudence." And there's something weirdly refreshing about a rock singer with the chutzpah to deliver the line, "Thanks...for everything you aaa-rrre" (from Unwind's "Champion," also released as a single to benefit victims of 9/11) with a poker face and unimpeachable sincerity.

 
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