9,000,000 beats per minute
The Undulating Band
Aaron Avenue Records
It's the Catch-22 that lurks at the heart of every Local Band Hell: Stick around for awhile, play regularly, and in a couple of years people will either take you for granted or view you with thinly veiled contempt. Brad Thompson and the Undulating Band have been inhabiting the Dallas version of that paradox for a spell now, and while the release of 9,000,000 beats per minute proves them able communicators of their vision, there's nothing here that seems likely to lift them out of their we-can-see-those-guys-anytime ghetto.
Perhaps it's because the Undulating Band subscribes to a pop-rock model that's not exactly the flavor (or would that be flava?) of the month. Instead of post-grunge rock, hippity-hoppity hybridization, or quirky-jerky power-trio punk-pop, Thompson--the band's leader and primary songwriter--leads the Undulating Band along the same path traveled by classicists like Three Dog Night and contemporaries like Collective Soul. Traditionally grounded, with a strong acoustic-guitar presence that lends a rootsy feel, the songs cover a wide emotional range--from romantic setbacks ("You!") and confrontations ("China") to confession and revelation ("Tell Me") and relaxed prognosis ("It May Take Time"). The arrangements serve the tunes' direction well (check out the dreamy guitar solo on "Slip Away"). It's just that the overall effect is one of consolidation within creative territory, not exploration beyond. Not exactly a hanging offense, but not the kind of thing that garners scads of new attention either.
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Ain't No Perfect Diamond
The Morales sisters--Roberta and Lisa--have long specialized in a slightly smaller-scale version of the Dixie Chicks shtick, without all the cowgirl accoutrements and a bit more real life in their approach. Still, the sweetness and precision with which their vocal harmonies fit together is--as with the Chicks--a major delight.
Sounding sweet, however, isn't enough anymore, and Ain't No Perfect Diamond shows the Sisters' songwriting to be progressing, especially that of Roberta, who has traditionally not been quite as prolific as her sis. Roberta has two boot-scootin' songs co-written with Clay Blaker on Diamond, "Let Go of Your Heart" and "This Heart's Not Mine to Give Away This Time," but the album is by no means some cowgirls' jamboree: There are a number of cuts that would be perfect for Americana or Adult Album Alternative formats. Covers include Lennon and McCartney's "World Without Love" and two romantic Spanish songs ("La Ultima Noche" and "Noche de Ronda"), which fit well with the pure pop on the disc (Lisa's "Tryin'"). Live, this duo's dominant flavor is still country, but the pursuit of other styles on Diamond makes it clear that it's not the only rabbit in their hat.