Eve 6 and AM Radio

Squeaky-clean Los Angeles pop-punkers Eve 6 have managed a few blasts of radio-ready teen angst made palatable by expensive guitar crunch, snappy choruses and front man Max Collins' practiced bellow; debut single "Inside Out" still sounds pretty good on mix CDs, and 2000's "Here's to the Night" could pass for a featherweight "With or Without You" for kids born during the '90s. So the band's slot on some future VH1 retrospective is assured. But the new It's All in Your Head, whose cover features what looks like a headless He-Man figurine, finds these high-school laureates attempting a gravity their tunes can't support: "Are you feeling that you're on the brink of spilling some red in the sink?" Collins asks on "Friend of Mine," a snappy-chorus-less blast of expensive guitar crunch that could belong to anyone with a major-label recording budget. Later he observes that "rape is a word with a face," and remembers walking "the promenade in the rain with Velcro shoes and an ice cream stain," which could be a chilling juxtaposition but instead just feels confused. Maybe that's high school, though.

Rivers Cuomo-managed openers AM Radio mostly steer clear of that kind of drama on their Elektra debut, Radioactive. "Just met a porn star, she is an actress," vocalist Kevin Ridel sings in "Taken for a Ride," "because in real life she won't admit this." I can't quite figure out what that means, but the band's chunky, fairly tuneful alt-rock--about midway between Eve 6's and Cuomo's, sonically speaking, with the occasional interlude of reverb-as-mystery--is as easily graspable as a headless He-Man figurine.

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Mikael Wood