There's so much wrong with pop-soul slicksters Maroon 5's Songs About Jane--which, after an inconspicuous release in June 2002, has been picking up steam recently among fans of John Mayer and Michelle Branch, both of whom have soundbitten the L.A. band--that it actually ends up kind of right. For starters, singer-guitarist Adam Levine sings in a pinched, blue-eyed tenor that shouldn't indicate much more than fussy Hollywood petulance; yet on "This Love" and "She Will Be Loved" he works the instrument to dig into the itchy white-boy anxiety that surprisingly undergirds Jane's tunes. Ditto the rest of the band, who overwork their rehearsal-room chops--lots of gratuitous wah-wah, tasteful cymbal splashes and oatmeal keyboards--but end up saying something semi-meaningful about the dubious efficacy of rehearsal-room chops.
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New York-based opener Gavin DeGraw's debut, Chariot, is probably the dullest thing I've heard this month: pinched, overworked blue-eyed soul that reaches for Jeff Buckley's grace but ends up stuck inside a Hallmark card addressed to Adam Duritz. Sources I vaguely trust report that there's more to DeGraw's live show than there is to his album--not a real feat, though I admit that descriptions of his "Let's Get It On" have piqued my interest--so give the guy a chance before filing him next to well-meaning dopes like Jason Mraz (only without any tunes). Or don't. See if I care.