Lost in America
First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2006, Volume 13, #4
Written by Tracy M. Rogers
Nine years ago, Edwin McCain improbably became something of a superstar when his single I’ll Be rapidly ascended the pop charts. His surprisingly successful rendition of Diane Warren’s Could Not Ask for More raised the ante, and McCain subsequently made quite a name for himself around the globe. Unfortunately, Lost in America, his latest endeavor, hardly follows suit. In place of his soulful singing and introspective songs, McCain mistakenly opted instead to fuse hard-edged, ’80s rock with screaming, heavy metal-style vocals and pedestrian lyrics that reflect his angst.
In fact, there are no true highlights on Lost in America, and only the middle section of the bad-boy, power pop rave-up Bitter and Twisted and the roots-rock Gramercy Park Hotel show any melodic promise. The rest of the effort is bland, with overused guitar riffs that lack both ingenuity and texture. Gramercy Park Hotel begins as a roots-y, Hootie and the Blowfish-meets- John Mellencamp pop tune before it dissolves into overdone, redundant lyrics about a favorite hangout, while The Kiss is an overly maudlin love song with a generic folk-pop melody. McCain’s cover of Welcome to Strugglesville attempts to plumb the depths of the challenges faced by the working class, but it simply sounds clichéd, while Truly Believe is a power chord-infused, ’80s-inspired number about a lovers’ quarrel that fails to provide any punch or insight into relationships. The title track tries to infuse political commentary into the affair, but it fails because its stale lyrics blame breast implants, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll for being the downfall of America — which, incidentally, is certain to impress, rather than to dissuade, the redneck crowd.
The second half of Lost in America is equally unimpressive. My Mystery finds McCain unsuccessfully trying to compete with Fountains of Wayne, while Black and Blue, with its irksome melody and tepid saxophone solo, sounds like a cross between Michael McDonald and Huey Lewis and the News. The aforementioned Bitter and Twisted begins with banal lyrics like "I’ve been a bad boy" and vocals that sound like a cross between Paul Westerberg and Metallica’s James Hetfield — a very discordant combination.
In fact, Lost in America finds McCain totally abandoning the soulful vocals that made him famous in favor of heavy metal screeching. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the album’s final two tracks: the slide guitar lament Losing Tonight and the rock-metal-blues hybrid Babylon. Losing Tonight is far more soulful than anything else on the effort, though it still completely fails to capture the power of McCain’s voice, particularly on the chorus where his singing mutates into a raspy sneer. Babylon, by contrast, sounds like a leftover Black Sabbath song, and he stretches his voice entirely too thin by trying to sing over the tune’s wailing, dissonant guitar riffs. It seems quite obvious throughout the set that McCain’s style is not suited for such heavy musical fodder.
Overall, Lost in America is an album that not only lacks a stylistic focus, but also fails to provide one tune that isn’t a challenge to hear. One only hopes that McCain will soon return to his soul and blues roots and leave behind his misguided attempts to rehash the ’80s in all of its hard rock and heavy metal glory.
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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