Love Loss Hope Repeat
First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2006, Volume 13, #10
Written by John Metzger
In its quest for mainstream acceptance, Carbon Leaf slowly but surely is losing its identity, and tapping Peter Collins (Bon Jovi, Tracy Ullman, and Phil Collins) to produce Love Loss Hope Repeat only has hastened the demise of the groupís distinctive flair. Granted, its early efforts were full of flaws, but instead of refining its approach and building upon the experiments that worked, the ensemble opted to jettison everything in favor of a streamlined, radio-friendly sound. On its latest endeavor, the Celtic textures that once permeated the bandís material have slipped even further into the background, leaving behind an indistinct blend of alt-rock influences. Odes to Weezer, Barenaked Ladies, and Psychedelic Furs drift in and out of Carbon Leafís music with relative ease, but itís the spirit of R.E.M. that dominates the songs on the outing. Unfortunately, the murky subversiveness that turned R.E.M.ís early efforts into classics has been scrubbed clean, and what remains is a diluted facsimile that too often is utterly forgettable.
Keeping Love Loss Hope Repeat afloat, however, is Carbon Leafís knack at concocting infectious melodies and feel-good arrangements. For example, just as A Girl and Her Horse is about to become overly cloying, the band livens the proceedings with a series of handclaps that instantly transform the song into an irresistible, head-bopping groove. Elsewhere, on Block of Woodís roots-rock refrains, the ensemble strikes a soulful pose that mirrors the optimism of its lyrics, while the connection between a boy and his grandfather becomes palpable within the vividly painted battle scars of The War Was in Color. Overall, however, Love Loss Hope Repeat is so carefully constructed that it virtually is stripped of substance, and although there are hints of something better lurking beneath the surface of the material, Carbon Leaf is too focused on making an immediately gratifying album for everyman that it loses sight of its creative vision.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box