Cavo gets the ball rolling with a pompous stadium-rock anthem about "last goodbyes" and "wasted time," a relentless barrage of alt-rock clichés no doubt delivered with the requisite forehead-scrunching. Such an expression, along with a grandiose baritone and loud/soft riffage, conveys emotional depth -- just ask Scott Stapp, who asked Eddie Vedder.... With its intricate guitar/drum interplay, mathy time-signature shifts and strangled yowling, Asia Minor makes aggressive dude-rock that doesn't half suck. Bonus: Vocals are way low in the mix, which means less stuff for mean rock critics to mock.... Big Blue Monkey -- who recently changed their name to the Story of the Year and signed to Maverick -- exemplify everything that's wrong with modern rock: moody dirges, horrendous emoting and lyrics that might've been cribbed from a depressed middle-school student's diary. They'll probably be huge.
The singer in 5th Element seems to be choking back vomit as he delivers the lyrics. Who could blame him? This song is the absolute nadir of nü-metal horribleness.... Unchained's gonna get signed by a major very soon -- bank on it. Imagine a less interesting Gravity Kills, somehow worsened by blatant Vedderisms and lotsa talk about losing control of one's soul and all one's goals slowly fading away. Behold the power of cheese.... We've never been crazy about Neptune Crush, but these guys come off like semigeniuses in this context. The singer's got a girly falsetto, the hooks are glammy, the harmonies uplifting and the lyrics -- bane of many a modern-rock band -- might just be a commentary on the soul-crushing suckitude of corporate-controlled radio. Or maybe that's just wishful thinking.... Start off with melodramatic arpeggios, throw in a few hott lixx, recite every dumb relationship platitude you've ever heard in an annoying nasal whine, weave it all into a big angsty web, and voilà! You're well on your way to becoming Disturbing the Peace, if not Creed.
The Midwest Avengers make rap, not rap-metal, thank you very much, and, with their bloopy ghetto-tech beats and hyper flow, they're a welcome relief from the painfully earnest brooding dudes who surround them. Still, the production's subpar, and the vocals -- a rather important component of rap -- are muffled and mostly incomprehensible.... Big ups to the guys in Matt's Dad's Basement for not taking themselves too seriously, for rhyming "Chicken McNugget" and "thug it" and for having the audacity to write an adenoidal neo-hippie acoustic feel-good jam about seeing Tupac at McDonald's. As with most novelty songs, though, the humor soon wears thin. But at least we were laughing with 'em and not at 'em on first listen.... As far as we can tell, Lost at Sea is the only band on this CD that contains a woman. Unfortunately, she sings like a lobotomized Liz Phair.... Core Project takes a hypnotic organ riff and mixes in some hip-hop and jazz-fusion tropes. It's a tad patchouli-groovy for our tastes, but it's definitely one of the disc's highlights.... Duke wants to be Blink-182 really bad. One part sugar and one part snot, liberally garnished with snakes and snails and puppy-dog tails, this track was tailor-made for prepubescent boys who like to imagine they're ironic and irreverent when really they're just irritating.... 13 Days combines nasty low-end thrum, lots of crashing cymbals and Korn-fed bombast. One day, if they're lucky, they might land a morning slot on the Ozzfest second stage.
Just Add Water, this year's RFT Music Award winner in the Best Modern Rock category, cranks out a perky power-pop ditty that's somewhere between bad Cheap Trick and good Rick Springfield.... Earl forgoes its usual heartland-rock approach, aiming for a little less rootsy twang and a bit more mainstream gloss. The result is melodic and competently executed but not particularly memorable, although it does stand out as one of the better songs on the disc.... The self-important caterwauling of Flynova's singer is almost -- but not quite -- hilarious: "It's the hardest thing to do/It's the hardest thing to discover how to tell you." Word to the wise: If you know you're inarticulate, shut the fuck up and go instrumental.... Nonstop 3, like Duke, makes Malcolm in the Middle-ish bubble-punk. Bonus points for the toy xylophone, though.... Shine might have had an OK little psych-pop number here, but some majorly dopey riffage gets in the way.... Grip takes the standard mook-rock formula, already so dangerously close to self-parody, and cranks it to eleven. "You better fucking fear me," the oooh-scary vocalist announces, amid "suck your mama's dick"-type insults. Turns out, we who hate him are actually just jealous because he's something we can never be. Whatever gets you through the night, dude.