First Appeared at The Music Box, May 2001, Volume 8, #5
Written by Michael Karpinski
At one time or another, it has happened to all of us. We hear a song. We like the song. We seek out the song. We cough up 15 bucks for the song and the 11 or so other songs that cling to it like sycophants to a spotlit Sinatra. So far, so good.
It is only when we actually begin to listen to those other songs that we suddenly discover ourselves the victims of a most insidious bait-and-switch. Helplessly, we stand witness as that tasty, grade-A piece of beef thatís been waved in our faces is suddenly yanked away ó replaced by a lukewarm stew of gristle and gruel. Bitter, betrayed, angry ó and with the phrase "caveat emptor" echoing in our ears like some mantra from the gods ó we soon find ourselves resenting the very tune that attracted us to this Hollywood-backlot facade in the first place.
To be fair, James Michaelís debut CD Inhale is no one-trick pony ó it features no less than four songs with at least some measure of merit. Not surprisingly, itís the title cut ó an infectious, addictís-eye-view of the soul-sucking self-deceptions that help ratchet a hobby to a habit ó that provides the biggest bong... er... "bang"... for the buck. Also hinting at addiction (and the collateral damage that routinely accrues to it) is Inhaleís sister song Simple Thing where, once again, the power-pop melodicism of Cheap Trick is married to the muscled-up momentum of Everclear. Two tracks later, Michael turns in a passable ó if somewhat colorless ó cover of the Joe Jackson classic Is She Really Going out with Him? and follows that with the tremolo-mellow Down, which (for all its cinderblock-solid craftsmanship) still sounds like something the Goo Goo Dolls would shill in an instant to the first willing soundtrack or compilation project.
But itís for those moments when he attempts to get tender and confessional that Michael saves his most notable missteps. On the "Iím-just-trying-to-make-sense-of-this-mess-Iíve-made" ballads Slack and Note to Self, his pinched-nose croak all but begs to be cleaned and pressed by one of Cherís cloaking vocoders. I'm OK with This once again channels Cheap Trick ó only this time from that groupís gooey, late-í80s The Flame days. And Say It Once Moreís strained sentiment sounds borrowed from a besotted Barry Manilow ó sending the record off with the most woeful and wimpy of whimpers.
In a perfect world, Inhale would be packaged as a perfectly adequate four-song maxi-single, and ten of the 15 bucks we coughed up for it would be recoverable through some unprecedentedly magnanimous record-company kickback. But this is not a perfect world. And record companies are not in the business of giving kickbacks to consumers. To the contrary, they are in a business constitutionally inclined to the championing of quantity over quality; limp filler over solid, top-to-bottom product. And that leaves us a little like that blue-haired old bird in the burger commercial ó forever dumbly wondering: Whereís the beef?
Inhale is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2001 The Music Box