Sonic Reducer

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Weezer’s latest release, nicknamed "The Red Album," is another sad reminder of a great band that once was. Ever since 1996’s Pinkerton , once-lauded geek-rock guru Rivers Cuomo hasn’t been able to reproduce the magic that made his band one of the most craved commodities of the late ’90s. Haphazard attempts at ironic-rapping (Weezer really missed the boat on the whole rap-rock craze) and superficial, empty and painfully predictable songwriting abound. There are some palatable tracks, like the single "Pork and Beans," but too often it sounds as though Cuomo is trying to write a catchy tune instead of just letting it happen. (SM)

The Dutchess and the Duke She's the Dutchess, He's the Duke (Hardly Art)

This is acoustic folk’s best chance to start a riot. The Dutchess and the Duke’s Kimberly Morrison and Jesse Lortz make about as much racket as two unplugged guitars and a pair of voices possibly can. The unrushed but deliberate tempo, forceful strumming and Lortz’ gravelly vocals give the band a hard-nosed, grungy aesthetic. The beauty of the beast shows itself when Lortz and Morrison volley their voices back and forth, until both are singing at the top of their lungs. The duo sounds like old friends by the campfire, shooting the shit and crooning the night away. (SM)

The Hold Steady Stay Positive (Vagrant Records)

Do all but slap a label to The Hold Steady, even if it’s been heavily compared to other bands. If nothing is new under the sun, then these guys found a prime piece of shade, especially in its strongholds of Minnesota and New York. You’ll feel a little guilty, but go ahead and sing along: The lyrics are so theatrical you can almost see a little red ball bouncing across the songs. (JH)

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