Picks and Pans Review: Ryan Cabrera

updated 09/06/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/06/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Take It All Away
POP-ROCK

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Just as Ashlee Simpson showed that she's more than Jessica's little sister with her recent No. 1 album Autobiography, Ryan Cabrera sets out to prove that he's more than Ashlee's spiky-haired ex on his major-label debut (which follows 2001's independently released Elm Street). Unfortunately the 22-year-old Dallas native's effort is about as carefully calculated as every spiky strand of hair on his head. The result is pop-rock that's as generic as it gets. Cabrera, who is managed by Ashlee and Jessica's father, Joe Simpson, actually sounds more like he wants to be the male Avril on guitar-driven tracks like the first single, "On the Way Down." That tune is among three that the singer-guitarist cowrote with Curt Frasca and Sabelle Breer, who also contributed to Lavigne's multiplatinum disc Let Go. Elsewhere, Cabrera veers into boy-band territory on treacly, acoustic-based ballads like "True" and "She's," which hints at a pre-Ashlee heartbreak: "I left everything for you/And I can't hardly breathe/'Cause I know I lost you from my world." Cabrera, who coproduced with the Goo Goo Dolls frontman John Rzeznik, has a couple of guilty pleasures (like the Hansonesque "40 Kinds of Sadness"), but they're not enough to get this heartthrob's CD pumping.

•DOWNLOAD THIS: "40 Kinds of Sadness"

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