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All-Reviews.com Top 50 Songs*:
for the 4th week of November, 2003

*based on airplay at alternative, pop and rock radio stations a cross the nation (reviews by LarryG)

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  1. Staind-So Far Away    (unchanged)      buy it!
    I kind of liked Price To Pay, the first single from Staind's 14 Shades Of Grey CD. It wasn't great but it was a decent rocker with more energy than the draggy, self pitying hits from the Break The Cycle CD. Price To Pay didn't last on the charts so the second single is a return to the oppressively empty, self important sound that's worked before. The good news is that, in contrast to Break The Cycle's tales of pain emanating from an abused past, So Far Away's lyric is cautiously upbeat. The bad news is that the music doesn't reflect Aaron Lewis' new optimism. So, as before, Lewis slowly rolls through the lyric, enunciating so we can fully experience his emotion. I still don't get why rock fans are interested in this overblown junk. It's lame and predictable. So Far Away has the standard pattern of verses with a quiet acoustic guitar leading into a bombastic chorus with big power guitars chords and slowly, seriously pounded drums meant to connote meaning. Things get even gloppier as strings underline Lewis' vocal when he gets really intense. Maybe the music is supposed to communicate Lewis' concern that he "must be sleeping." Lewis' voice remains dour and lugubrious and the pace is consistently glacial even as Lewis sings about moving away from struggle, not being ashamed of who he is and being able to smile and face the day.

  2. Nickelback-Someday    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Nickelback are back with The Long Road CD, making the same kind of ultraserious, overblown, cliched arena rock that brought them the megahit How You Remind Me. On Someday, Chad Kroeger and friends stuck to the formula that worked. Someday isn't quite as bombastic as How You Remind Me but it's otherwise incredibly similar. You can sing "this is how you remind me" and other parts of that song over portions of Someday. The appeal of Someday, and Nickelback's music in general, is lost on me. Kroeger's voice is so stiff and humorless that he's just a bore. He intones his thought about his relationship playing out "like a paperback novel" with gravity and emphasis to make sure you catch the brilliance of his simile. Someday's music and playing are coldly competent but lack any surprise or originality. Familiar hard rock riffs repeat over and over again. On Someday, Kroeger asks a partner to stay in a screwed up relationship, promising he's "gonna make it alright."

  3. 3 Doors Down-Here Without You    (unchanged)      buy it!
    3 Doors Down's savvy, radio friendly strategy has, oddly, placed them among the top pop acts. Here Without You, the third chart hit from the Away From The Sun CD, is poised to surpass its very successful predecessor When I'm Gone and become(including Kryptonite, from their Better Life debut) their third megasmash. 3 Doors Down's popularity is both confusing and unsurprising. On the one hand, frontman Brad Arnold isn't particularly handsome, charismatic or much of a singer. The band totally lacks distinctiveness. 3 Doors Down's songs(with the possible exception of Kryptonite) aren't very interesting or orginal. There's no sign that the band has extraordinary musical talent. On the other hand, 3 Doors Down seem to know their limitations and they know how to make familiar, accessible music. Usually, the most obvious comparison is to Matchbox 20 though Rob Thomas is, at least, a slightly better and more interesting singer and more distinctive songwriter than Arnold. On Here Without You, the model seems to be Creed's lofty, dramatic and very popular rock ballads, especially With Arms Wide Open. Arnold doesn't show the narcissism of Creed singer Scott Stapp but all the other elements are present. Here Without You starts with quiet guitar and Arnold's impassioned vocal. While drums eventually come in to add a touch of a rock feel, the song never gets loud in a way that might offend lite radio listeners. I suppose 3 Doors Down deserve points for avoiding the bombast of some rock ballads(including When I'm Gone) but while Arnold isn't too showy, the stiffness of his voice keeps Here Without You from achieving beauty or subtlety. Producer Rick Parashar also worked with humorless, radio friendly Nickelback, who are even stiffer and less likable than 3 Doors Down. Parashar follows rock ballad conventions here, adding a layer of strings that build as the song approaches an overdramatic, cloying climax. People love rock ballads and Here Without You isn't the worst one. 3 Doors Down smartly built an emotional song destined to be a hit but it really is a calculated, soulless piece of garbage. Here Without You's lyric is similar to When I'm Gone's but it's not quite as unappealing as that song's needy plea for his girlfriend to always think loving thoughts of him. Arnold is again away from his beloved. He wants her to be comforted by the fact that he's thinking and dreaming about her.

  4. A Perfect Circle-Weak and Powerless    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Maynard James Keenan is apparently going to keep alternating records by his bands, Tool and A Perfect Circle. A Perfect Circle's new CD is Thirteenth Step. A Perfect Circle's sound is a little artier and marginally less dark, heavy and hard rocking than Tool's but Keenan's music is always pretty dark. Weak and Powerless, written by Keenan and bandmate Billy Howerdel, isn't fun by it effectively communicates a gloomy mood without excess. Keenan's vocal is direct and downbeat but, unlike so many of his rock contemporaries, he doesn't showily wallow in his misery. Josh Freese's angular drumming and an array of edgy guitar sounds, including a cold, metallic sound, complete Weak and Powerless' tortured feel but also keep the song from dragging. Keenan sprinkles troubled images throughout Weak and Powerless to illustrate how he's "weak and powerless over you."

  5. Outkast-Hey Ya    (up 2 positions)      buy it!
    Outkast invited talk of a breakup by releasing a double CD that's basically two solo records. Big Boi's Speakerboxxx is a tight disc with a state of the art sound and touches of the inventiveness, intelligence and oddness that have long distinguished Outkast from other hip hop acts. Andre 3000's The Love Below, which features Andre mostly singing instead of rapping, is much less consistent. It has lots of goofing around, stupid jokes and undeveloped grooves as well as some good jokes, some irresistible grooves and a positive, good natured vibe. Big Boi and Andre 3000 claim to have no breakup plans and their strategy has paid off with two hits, Big Boi's sleek The Way You Move and Andre 3000's immensely entertaining Hey Ya.. Hey Ya is a strong candidate for best single of 2003. It brings to mind the giddy fun of British invasion pop(a connection reinforced by its wry video with an Ed Sullivan type audience filled with screaming young African American women) and the groove and joyful, trippy vibe and attitude of P-Funk and Sly and The Family Stone. But the most obvious comparison is with Prince's exhilarating, genre busting early 80s workouts . For Hey Ya, Andre 3000(aka Andre Benjamin) assembled sounds guaranteed to create a bouncy, positive feel. Hey Ya has a steady acoustic guitar strum, a tight, brittle beat, a goofy wah wah bass effect, a bubbly cheesy beeping synth, hand claps and Andre's sweet backing vocals and playful lead. The result is wacky, uplifting and as good a time as pop music can supply. On Hey Ya, Andre 3000 contemplates questions about his relationship including does his baby want to mess around with others and only avoid doing so to keep him from walking and whether love is an exception to the rule that nothing lasts forever. But he's more concerned with sustaining Hey Ya's buoyant mood. So the lyric also includes information like "don't want to meet you daddy, just want you in my Caddy" and "don't want to meet your mama, just want to make you cumma."

  6. Audioslave-Show Me How To Live    (unchanged)      buy it!
    The hits from Audioslave's self titled debut CD show that the former Rage Against The Machine musicians are surprisingly adept at the sort of classic rock influenced rock radio friendly songs singer Chris Cornell made with Soundgarden. Cochise was a big, fun Led Zeppellin pastiche and Like A Stone was an effectively dramatic, sprawling rock ballad. Show Me How To Live is another trip into Led Zeppellin territory. It doesn't have the over the top thrill of headbanger Cochise but it still works pretty well. The distinctiveness(and political edge) of Rage Against The Machine's music is largely missing on the Audioslave CD. Show Me How To Live is fairly generic, if effective, hard rock that sounds like a Soundgarden song. Tom Morello's tough, grinding guitar line and Brad Wilk's big basic beat give Show Me How To Live a good, gritty rock and roll edge. Chris Cornell always sounds pretty much the same and he's, typically, a little overdramatic. But the other side of his overblown vocal is that he provides a rousing, theatrical feeling that separates him from his intense, serious competition. Show Me How To Live is an unremarkable, solid hard rocker. Dealing with the "ringing in my head", Cornell demands to "my creator, you gave me life now show me how to live."

  7. Trapt-Still Frame    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    When I first heard Headstrong, the first single from the California band's self titled major label CD, I thought that they could stand out from other nu-metal bands. I saw that Chris Brown did quick, confident vocals that had a fluid hip hop sensibility and that Simon Ormandy had a versatile guitar style that allowed him to move from heavy metal crunching to light, artier playing. Still, I thought that Headstrong was like a lot of other rap metal and didn't foresee that it would become one of the most successful rock songs of the year. Obviously, a lot of people were impressed by the catchy, stomping chorus and the way Brown shifted from loose verses to an enraged scream. At the risk of being wrong again, I don't think Still Frame is remarkable. Brown has a strong voice and his raging isn't as silly or annoying as that of some of his fellow troubled rockers. Still Frame is a smooth ride. The sound flows easily from section to section with a fairly subtle guitar sound that has some decent variations. But Still Frame doesn't have much personality. It passes by innoucuously. The most noticable part is the chorus but Brown's "please help me because I'm breaking down" chant and the crunching guitars that underline it are very familiar from similar angry, confused rock songs. Brown sings on Still Frame about feeling lost and like he's losing it and "falling farther away from where I want to be."

  8. Puddle Of Mudd-Away From Me    (up 2 positions)      buy it!
    Puddle Of Mudd's hits from their Come Clean CD had all the annoying traits of the neo-grunge music that dominated rock radio and crossed over to the pop charts a couple of years. The music was cynical, taking the commercially appealing aspects of early 90s rock without adding anything original or personal. Wes Scantlin's lyrics were self pitying but his singing seemed narcissistic. It's an indication of how much I disliked Puddle Of Mudd's earlier work that, while I don't really like Away From Me, it feels like an improvement. Away From Me, the first single from Puddle Of Mudd's Life On Display CD, sounds a lot like Come Clean's Control. Scantlin's vocal isn't the nasty rant that made Control unpleasant but also helped set it apart and made it a hit for the angry rock kids. Scantlin's voice still has an mean snarl but Away From Me doesn't seem to be quite as much about Scantlin's singing as previous POM songs. Away From Me is a pretty tight, focused rocker. It has a good, big, steady, unshowy guitar sound that crunches home in a fairly catchy chorus. Away From Me is competent hard rock but Scantlin's unlikable presence limits its appeal. Away From Me is good and familiar enough to give it a run on modern rock radio but its mediocrity, the shifting of popular tastes(I hope) and the lack of charm of POM's front man will prevent it from reaching further success. On Away From Me, Scantlin plays a pathetic character, obsessively worrying that his woman is "f—ing someone else" and "always afraid" that she's leaving.

  9. Linkin Park-Numb    (up 2 positions)      buy it!
    Numb is the third chart hit from Linkin Park's Meteora CD but the first to get a big push at top 40 radio. Presumably Faint, which had a great, exciting riff, was considered too edgy for the mainstream. I like Numb, with its controlled sound, better than the songs featuring Chester Bennington's over the top screaming or Mike Shinoda's mediocre rapping but Numb isn't exciting or very interesting. Numb is better than average Linkin Park. Its spooky synth line effectively communicates its protagonist's turmoil. The way the guitars slam in on the chorus seems appropriate to the song's anger and less overdone than usual. Numb has a hook that resembles In The End and Crawling from Linkin Park's first CD but it benefits from a touch of restraint. Bennington still rages but with a lessened intensity that's right for a declaration of numbness. Bennington's straight forward singing on the verses isn't particularly good but it is charmingly sincere. Numb is fine. It's just ordinary and a little boring. With Numb's easily understood angst, Linkin Park continue delivering angry male rock to a wide suburban audience. Well intentioned and serious, Numb will appeal to teens looking for a meaningful sound they can relate to. But its solemn soul searching does nothing for me besides make me think if she makes you so unhappy, you should probably break up. Bennington sings in Numb about feeling smothered in a relationship with someone who sees his every step as a mistake and wants him to be "what you want me to be."

  10. Linkin Park-Faint    (down 1 position)      buy it!
    Faint, the second chart hit from Linkin Park's Meteora CD, is easily my favorite Linkin Park single so far. It gets off to a great start with a very good, distinctive riff and a sped up beat. Things take a bit of a turn for the worse when Mike Shinoda begins his flat, dull rap but at least he moves fast and doesn't slow Faint's momentum too much. Chester Bennington's raging howl is typically over the top(does a guy whose record sold more than 8 million copies have any right to scream, "I won't be ignored"?) Even if Bennington's anger is goofy, he gives the song power and fits well into Faint's supercharged atmosphere. Faint's chorus, which takes the song's fast, slippery beat and adds Bennington's wail and a wall of guitars, maintains the song's energy and has a catchy hook. Faint depicts an internal struggle about an unresponsive girlfriend. Shinoda plays the wimpy ego, whining about being lonely and unconfident, complaining about his emotional scars and pleading "'cause you're all I got." Bennington is the unrestrained, pissed off id demanding "you're gonna listen to me."

  11. John Mayer-Bigger Than My Body    (down 6 positions)      buy it!
    I feel like John Mayer has the potential to be interesting but his hugely successful Room For Squares CD was too mild and inoffensive for my liking. There were encouraging signs for Mayer's new Heavier Things CD. When he won a Grammy, he conceded that his music had not yet justified his rapid rise to stardom and promised "to catch up." Heavier Things' title also seemed like an acknowledgement that Mayer's music has been a bit light and an assurance that the new CD would be a little more substantial. Heavier Things is something of a mixed bag. Some of the music is a bit harder but the vibe is generally mellow. The CD's title presumably refers to the generally depressed, kind of self pitying nature of the lyrics. Bigger Than My Body is one of Heavier Things' more upbeat songs. It's quite charming. Bigger Than My Body has No Such Thing's easy, smooth feel but it's not as annoyingly whimsical and it has more going on musically. Mayer is a talented guitar player but he often seems too modest to show his skills. Bigger Than My Body has a good, distorted guitar effect. It also has a nice, simple piano line. Mayer's whispery, self effacing vocal can be cutesy but it fits nicely with Bigger Than My Body's steady flow. Bigger Than My Body shows Mayer's tendency for safe, easy listening music but it also shows his ability to be endearing in an unforced way. Bigger Than My Body's lyrics are cautiously optimistic. Mayer sings that his wings have been clipped but "someday I'll soar."

  12. Stone Temple Pilots-All In The Suit That You Wear    (up 7 positions)      buy it!
    Apparently because of Scott Weiland's continuing legal and substance abuse problems(he recently had a new arrest for driving under the influence), Stone Temple Pilots have split up. All The Suit That You Wear, a previously unreleased track, is included on Thank You, the band's greatest hits record. Few are likely to be very upset about STP's demise. Their days of making records that were accused of ripping off Pearl Jam and Nirvana but went multi platinum are long gone. No one seems to have been too excited about STP, in a positive or negative way, in a while. STP's later music was often pretty good and they showed some indications of developing a distinctive style but it was rarely interesting or commercial enough to show much of a purpose. All In The Suit That You Wear is a jagged rocker that reminds me of No. 4's Down and other STP songs. Weiland's singing has often veered from annoying to impressive. On All In The Suit That You Wear's verse, his voice has the same obnoxious snarl he used early in STP's career on Sex Type Thing. On the chorus, Weiland uses a more straight forward and less annoying rock singer voice. Dean DeLeo's crunching guitar and Eric Kretz' pounding drums create a big, tough sound. All In The Suit That You Wear has some edge and decent rock power but, like the band late in its career, it doesn't have much of a point or an appeal. I can't imagine that many will miss STP's lyrics. All In The Suit That You Wear is a typically cryptic, pointless Weiland composition. He asks an unspecified you who was "lost out there in the grip" and "trying to strangle us" to "set us free." I still don't know what is in the suit that you wear when you're "looking" or "hiding" but I concede that the title has an interesting rhythm when Weiland sings it.

  13. Three Days Grace-I Hate Everything About You    (up 4 positions)      buy it!
    I Hate Everything About You is on the self titled debut CD by the band originally from Norwood, Ontario, Canada. Three Days Grace are the umpteenth band to use the dynamic perfected by Nirvana. Three Days Grace seem like lots of angry, hard rocking bands. Everything About You is better than many similar songs because it's clean and focused. The fairly stripped sound has a purity of emotion and expression. The verses stick to a good, tense guitar riff. On the chorus, singer/guitar player Adam Gontier's howl is raw and heartfelt. Still, Everything About You is familiar and unsurprising. I preferred the crunching power chords alternating with raging voice thing when Kurt Cobain did it on Smells Like Teen Spirit and other better, more exciting songs. On I Hate Everything About You, Gontier recognizes the thrill and pull of a turbulent relationship but feels he's better without it.

  14. Fuel-Falls On Me    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Falls On Me, from Fuel's Natural Selection CD, is another lame attempt by a band to reach a larger audience with an intense, overblown rock ballad. Fuel provided a prime example of the emotive hit with their Hemorrhage(In My Hands). Falls On Me is clearly an attempt to recapture Hemorrhage's success. Falls On Me isn't as overdone as Hemorrhage but it is pretty boring and obvious. The Hemorrhage similarity is pushed early on as Falls On Me starts with quiet, meaningful strumming then Brett Scallions does a quiet, meaningful vocal. Predictably, the big guitars soon come in. They're not so bad; Falls On Me has a decent sound. It's fairly catchy and has emphatic bursts of drums and guitar, but Falls On Me has no spark or excitement. Scallions' pretentious, self important vocal doesn't help things. Neither does the fact that Falls On Me is very familiar. Besides Hemorrhage, Falls On Me echoes Collective Soul's Heavy with a nearly identical hook: "all of your weight falls on me." Carl Bell's lyric apparently is about how a woman can break "my disease" so he can breathe.

  15. White Stripes-Seven Nation Army    (unchanged)      buy it!
    White Stripes have followed the surprise million selling White Blood Cells CD with the even more successful Elephant. Seven Nation Army is their biggest radio hit so far. Like White Blood Cells, Elephant is a very good record that throws all sorts of ideas together. Singer/songwriter Jack White alternates(sometimes in the same song) between sincere and cynical and between goofy pop and serious, intense power chord laden hard rock. White's songs are unified by a seemingly natural weirdness and a good sense of a hook. White Stripes are still just guitar player Jack and drummer Meg White but Jack varies the sound and keeps it interesting. Unlike most of White Stripes' music, Seven Nation Army has a bass line(apparently played on a processed guitar). The verses, with Meg banging and Jack playing the big, basic bass line, give Jack space for his odd, strangely compelling vocal. Instead of shifting to a chorus, Seven Nation Army adds an electric guitar that basically tracks the bass line but creates a squealing intensity as the song dissolves into a fun jam before returning to another verse. Seven Nation Army is great, partly because its recurring riff is so good and memorable. Seven Nation Army has the kind of weird lyric that adds to White Stripes' charm. Sounding crazy and paranoid but also like he might have a point, Jack alternately promises to fight and ignore an unnamed enemy. He finally decides to avoid the struggle, go to Wichita and "work the straw." On Seven Nation Army, White Stripes music is again unpolished, odd and powerful.

  16. P.O.D.-Will You    (up 2 positions)      buy it!
    For anyone who didn't understand the obvious, portentous imagery P.O.D. tries to evoke with their name, they've called their new CD Payable On Death. For a while, P.O.D. found success and a comfort zone for their big, self important sound in big topics like school shootings(Youth Of The Nation) and being born again(Alive). When they tackle more mundane subjects, their bloated self righteousness seems more ridiculous. By nearly quoting it, Will You brings to mind Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, reminding us that fraught emotions can be communicated simply and much more appealingly. As usual, P.O.D.'s guitars are pretty good but trapped in an overblown song and forced to follow Sonny Sandoval's histrionics. Will You apparently is about an unhappy woman who's manipulated by her man. But Sandoval's whining, ranting and emoting totally undercut any empathy he's trying to show.

  17. Beyonce featuring Sean Paul-Baby Boy    (down 1 position)      buy it!
    Beyonce Knowles' impressive streak of huge hits, first with Destiny's Child and now as a solo artist, continues with Baby Boy, the second single from Beyonce's Dangerously In Love CD. Baby Boy has a sound destined to make it a smash but it's not nearly as appealingly as Dangerously In Love's first hit Crazy In Love. On Crazy In Love, Beyonce abandoned her usual cool, controlled persona for a song with a joyful, liberating sound. On Baby Boy, Beyonce reverts to a professional, slightly calculated voice. Scott Storch, who's worked on hits including Christina Aguilera's Fighter, wrote and produced Baby Boy with Beyonce. Baby Boy has a good, slightly exotic sound with eastern guitar sounds and an emphatic synth that adds to the song's excitement. Baby Boy features popular collaborator Sean Paul(I prefer Breathe, his similar but warmer duet with Blu Cantrell). Paul helps increase Baby Boy's intensity with a confident but focused rap that keeps the song moving forward and avoids the silly narcissism that mars some of Paul's work . Beyonce's singing is OK. She has some of the sensuality the lyric requires but she'd be better if she seemed looser and less studied. Baby Boy's lyric is a fairly routine tribute to a guy who she can't stop thinking about who fulfills her fantasies.

  18. Jet-Are You Gonna Be My Girl    (up 3 positions)      buy it!
    Jet follow The Vines as a band from Australia making hard hitting rock and roll. Jet differ from The Vines in seeming less ambitious, pretentious and obnoxious. On Are You Gonna Be My Girl, from the Melbourne band's Get Born CD, Jet are a band having a good time. With their hand claps and tambourines, Jet very obviously borrow from rocking mid-60s British bands like Rolling Stones, Faces and The Who but they seem natural rather than studied or showy. Unlike Black Crowes, for instance, Jet don't seem to show off their resemblance to their heroes. Nic Cester and Cam Muncey give Are You Gonna Be My Girl great energy, mixing up a stomping rhythm guitar line with a good, twisty lead. Muncey has plenty of charisma and a strong voice with a good rock and roll edge. He easily holds his own against the guitars' force and the song doesn't flag when he sings on his own while the guitars take break. Are You Gonna Be My Girl encourages comparisons to lots of different songs. Towards the end, the guitars have the "channelling The Stooges" feel of Strokes songs like Last Nite. Are You Gonna Be My Girl doesn't sound original but it is fun and energetic. Are You Gonna Be My Girl has an appropriately simple, retro lyric. Muncey tells a girl that "you look so fine" that "I really wanna make you mine."

  19. Blink 182-Feeling This    (up 5 positions)      buy it!
    Not long ago, Blink 182 were proudly one of the stupidest successful bands around. Since then, younger bands like Sum 41 and Simple Plan, who seem like fans of Blink 182's fast, fun rocking pop, have supplanted the band in terms of pop success and dopeyness. It's a bit depressing that, as they hit 30, Blink 182 seem to be trying to keep up with the new kids. Feeling This, from the band's self titled new record, sounds like an attempt by Blink 182, who rarely showed much interest in rap or hip hop in the past, to emulate the rap rock sound of Sum 41 and other lesser immature rock bands. The good news is that they do a really good job. Feeling This has a good flow and a lot of likable personality. Anchored by Travis Barker's big, flexible, no nonsense beat, Feeling This shifts tempos and textures but stays interesting. Feeling This is a good showcase for Blink's vocalists. Their contrasting styles fit together nicely. In his bratty voice, Tom DeLonge is the nihilist reveling in the moment, exclaiming excitedly "show me the way to bed" and "I love all the things you do." The more reflective Mark Hoppus makes it clear that the encounter is a thing of the past that's sadly fading into memory. When you think that the genial traded vocals are all the song is about, Hoppus comes up with a skilled, fluid, unshowy rap. With DeLonge's fast, varied guitar lines, Feeling This keeps driving forward. Throughout, Feeling This retains a loose hip hop flow and maintains a good balance of enthusiasm and smarts.

  20. Fountains Of Wayne-Stacy's Mom    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Fountains Of Wayne released two good, smart pop rock records in the late 90's and seemed destined to a career with a small, devoted following. Thanks to one of the catchiest songs of the year, Fountains Of Wayne has, at least temporarily, made a quick transition from critics' darlings to pop stars. Welcome Interstate Managers is one of the best records of 2003. It's a likable, thoughtful group of rockers and ballads. While the rest of the record is catchy, carefully constructed and often subtle, the sleek, perky and not subtle Stacy's Mom stands out as FOW's most commercially savvy song. On Stacy's Mom, FOW openly embrace The Cars' power chords and shiny keyboards formula. From an opening stuttering guitar riff to beeping synths to a tight, electronic beat that precedes each verse to the delirious wash of synths and big guitars on the chorus, Stacy's Mom keeps coming and building with different, appealing sounds. Jody Porter plays a winning, triumphant guitar solo then the chorus comes back one more time for a big finish with an even more exuberant mix of harmonies, hand claps and keyboards. Singer Chris Collingwood plays straight man to the flamboyant sounds but his vocal has a guilelessness that works with the sincere lyric. Stacy's Mom isn't my favorite FOW song. Especially after hearing it a thousand times, I don't love its glossy perfection as much as the more personal, idiosyncratic feel of other songs. But there's little doubt about Stacy's Mom ingeniousness. Fountains Of Wayne's songs have vivid detail that's rare in pop music. As they do on many of their songs, Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger write on Stacy's Mom about a simpler, youthful time. But the melancholy of many FOW's songs is replaced on Stacy's Mom by the giddiness of depicting the ridiculous, charming overconfidence of a kid sure he can convince his friend's mom that she "could use a guy like me."

  21. Santana-Why Don't You & I    (down 9 positions)      buy it!
    The success of Carlos Santana's two comeback CDs has got to be one of the oddest recent stories in pop music. Santana doesn't sing or write most of the songs. His contribution is mostly a bit of guitar doodling, his name and a hippie/classic rock vibe. The key to Santana's late career resurgence is the idea, originally hatched by Clive Davis, of pairing him with singer/songwriters who are less than half his age and popular with the kids. Santana's teammates seem to be getting steadily younger. The Shaman CD's first single teamed Santana with prototeen Michelle Branch. Why Don't You & I teams Santana with Alex Band, the 22 year old singer from The Calling. Why Don't You & I is very lightweight bubblegum pop but it is charming. Band's vocal is almost unbearably sunny but it fits the song's upbeat feel and is much more appealing than his showily earnest singing on The Calling's hit Wherever You Will Go. There's nothing new to Santana's playing but he has a great sense of crowd pleasing sounds. His easy riffs help the verses' breezy mood. Crunching power chords alternate with Santana's jamming to make the chorus irresistably catchy and Santana's solo is smart, tight and unshowy. The surprise about Why Don't You & I is that it was written by Nickelback's Chad Kroeger, who sings the album version. Light and fun are not words I associate with the normally lugubrious, overly meaningful Mr. Kroeger but Why Don't You & I has a nice light touch. Why Don't You & I's "heads we will and tails we'll try again" line is cute. So are the sweetly deployed cliches images(perfect for Mr. Band's youthful persona) of being "a lovesick puppy" with a stomach "filled with the butterflies" "bouncing round from cloud to cloud" and "walking around with little wings on my shoes".

  22. Audioslave-I Am The Highway    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Audioslave, the eponymous debut CD by the band comprised of Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell and Rage Against The Machine's musicians, is a solid record that's been smartly marketed to rock radio. Hard rocking tracks reminiscent of the band's earlier music(Cochise and Show Me How To Live) have been alternated with sweeping rock ballads to show the record's appeal to fans of the band's previous work and a broader audience. And they've all been pretty good. It make sense that I Am The Highway, Audioslave's fourth chart hit, is being played after Like A Stone, the record's other big, sprawling slow song, has been given time to fade into memory. From its deliberate pace to the way Cornell sings "I am the night" with almost exactly the same phrasing he used to sing "I wait for you alone", I Am The Highway is a lot like Like A Stone. And while, like Like A Stone, it's quite evocative and powerful, it falls a bit short of its predecessor. I Am The Highway's chief asset is Chris Cornell heartfelt's vocal. Cornell's singing is invariably over the top but, in a flip, ironic world, his seriousness can draw you in. So the sincerity of Cornell's recitation of I Am The Highway's overheated title metaphor for his life on the road is a little goofy but the intensity of Cornell's effortlessly strong voice is fascinating. The ex Rage musicians can mostly be appreciated for their restraint in playing an arrangement that would largely be appropriate for a lounge act but they do quietly add to I Am The Highway's cool atmosphere. Tom Morello keeps his guitar playing simple and plays an appropriately reflective solo. I Am The Highway is undoubtedly too subtle for many Rage fans. It's a little slow for my tastes but I do appreciate its controlled yet dramatic mood.

  23. Matchbox 20-Bright Lights    (up 25 positions)      buy it!
    I'm a bit of a sucker for a schmaltzy, heartfelt ballad so I mostly like Bright Lights, the third hit from Matchbox 20's More Than You Think You Are CD. I certainly prefer Rob Thomas' sappy mode to the slick, harder edged commercial pop rock mode he was in for Disease, the awful thudding, slick single he wrote with Mick Jagger, and the whiny, drab, mediocre single Unwell. Bright Lights is a bit like If You're Gone, probably my favorite Matchbox 20 song. Bright Lights starts nicely with Thomas and a piano. A steel guitar underlines the vulnerability in Thomas' voice. Bright Lights' lead guitar and drums are initially fairly subdued. As on If You're Gone, Thomas trades his typical clenched fist rock star voice for a more modest, realer sound. Unfortunately, unlike If You're Gone, which built to a quite lovely horn assisted climax, Bright Lights is unable to sustain its appeal. About halfway through, there's a terrible guitar solo and, suddenly, we're in a bad Journey song. The guitars wail and Thomas is an over emoting rock star again. The big finish undercuts Bright Lights' charms. On Bright Lights, Thomas' character is once again romantically disappointed. He's pathetic but fairly sweet, hoping that the "baby" who left him with no one to "save me from all I'm up against out in this world" will feel unwelcome in Manhattan and "come on home."

  24. Coldplay-Moses    (up 10 positions)      buy it!
    Moses didn't make A Rush Of Blood To The Head's final cut but Coldplay played it on that record's tour and included on the Coldplay Live 2003 CD & DVD. Moses was probably originally omitted because it was similar to and perhaps not quite as good as A Rush Of Blood's Clocks but it's good that Moses has been given a chance. Moses is another example of the band's charms. Coldplay are often at their best when they showcase Jon Buckland. On Moses, Buckland makes a number of interesting, evocative guitar sounds. Before each verse, Buckland plays a beautiful, shimmering riff. Otherwise, Buckland nicely matches Chris Martin's vocal. On the verses, he does a simple but nice sounding strum. On the chorus, he plays a good, soaring line that leads into the part where Martin climbs to a falsetto. Buckland closes out the song with a fairly basic solo that supplies a sense of catharsis. Martin similarly employs a variety of voices. He uses a fairly plaintive vocal on the chorus, climbs in intensity and finally achieves a feeling of joyful release. Martin has done lots of yearning vocals before but he still communicates humility and sincerity that feels real. Martin must feels very fortunate to be with Gwyneth Paltrow but it'll be interesting to see whether winning the heart of a fabulous babe hurts his writing. Martin's gotten a lot of lyrics from depicting himself as ever hopeful but more interested in a woman than she is in him. On Moses, Martin is typically a bit pathetic but charming as he tries to win a woman by telling her "you're my golden opportunity." The simile that gives Moses its title is overblown even for a romantic like Martin. Does Martin really think that the power a woman has over him is comparable to the power Moses had over the Red Sea?

  25. Trapt-Headstrong    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Headstrong is from the California band's self titled major label debut. Headstrong holds some hints that Trapt could be more interesting than other nu-metal bands. The sound isn't as cluttered or murky as that of some of their contemporaries. The verses are pretty good. Chris Brown's vocal is smooth and quick with a rapper's sensibility. The vocal is nicely underlined by Simon Ormandy's light, loose guitar. The chorus is effective but less interesting as Brown and Ormandy's trade short, jagged thrusts of guitar. Brown's angry croon is awfully familiar. In the end, not much distinguishes Headstrong from intense rap metal by Linkin Park, Papa Roach and many others. Headstrong is competently made but not particularly likable or interesting. Headstrong apparently announces a break with an ambitious musical associate who won't change his wrong ideas.

Songs 26-50


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