Soul Asylum

As part of the big three Minneapolis godsends of the '80s (along with Hüsker Dü and the Replacements), Soul Asylum, despite significantly higher sales figures, always played third fiddle in that triumvirate. Once they became big stars via "Runaway Train," lead singer and pretty boy Dave Pirner always seemed a little too comfortable in those corporate shoes, fooling around with Winona Ryder (who wasn't?) and over-emoting on each successive release.

The Silver Lining is Soul Asylum's first release since 1998 (and last with late bass player Karl Mueller), and in spite of a return to the tougher guitar sound of yesteryear, songs such as "Crazy Mixed-Up World" and "Success Is Not So Sweet" are so hackneyed and polished that it's hard to find any discernible difference between this and current twaddle such as the All-American Rejects. Pirner and guitarist Dan Murphy have never been known as the brightest of bulbs, but previously, they could turn a phrase and a riff into something memorable (as heyday gems "Cartoon," "Freaks" and "Somebody to Shove" bear witness). Here, the recycled melodies and substandard lyrics make one pine for a time before stardom turned rough-hewn charm into the worst thing a rock record can be: faceless.