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May 17, 2024

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V (Radioactive/MCA)

By: Scott Lewis

What have Ed Kowalczyk and crew gone and done? What made their first two albums so arresting and refreshing was their obvious, abundant musical talent fused with an almost innocent sense of wonder and hope. It was their passion and resolve that made them somewhat unlikely, but believable heroes. Now, a decade after their stellar debut, Mental Jewelry, Live's refreshing life-force has apparently been used up and they're left sounding like a wimpy Stone Temple Pilots one minute, and failing shock rockers the next. From the opening sputter of gritty electro-industrial sounds and spooky spoken words that introduce V, right through to the stale swipe at hip-hop on the final track, this album sounds completely contrived and wholly dismissible. Not that you're likely to make it to the end. That fate should come right about when Ed turns in his sensitive folky number, adopting a falsetto that should be taken away by the state. Though the guitars still ring sweetly at times, and when he chooses, Ed can still dole out the urgent swoon like no one else, but V lacks what gave Live life...heart. Finally, and this is just a mechanical complaint, but the tray card lists 14 tracks, but your CD player will clearly tell you that there are, in fact, 15 tracks, which would make it difficult to follow along, if anyone were so inclined.
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