Rock is not dead, merely on life support. In the upper regions of the pop charts it once ruled—where hip hopsters, Nashville hats, R&B divas and movie soundtracks now dominate—it is sustained only by the Smashing Pumpkins, the Dave Matthews Band and a few other occasional visitors. But hope for reenergizing the almost comatose form is on the way. And Grant Lee Phillips, leader, guitarist, singer and songwriter for this rockin' Los Angeles quartet, sounds on this, his band's fourth album, as though he's not even aware there is an emergency. With calm assurance, he delivers a solid and ambitious, masterfully wrought cycle of mostly up-tempo tunes that are almost Beatlesque in the complexity of their arrangements and the ringing clarity of their sound. With guitars that chime, clash and crash, vocals both urgent and soaring, a killer rhythm section and the gentle wafts of a tinkling piano, Phillips and friends create rock the way it oughta be—lush, thumping and substantial.
Bottom Line: Good old rock and roll sounding lively and new