CD Review of Before the Robots by Better Than Ezra
Better than Ezra: Paper Empire
Recommended if you like
Toad the Wet Sprocket,
Dishwalla, Train
Label
Artemis
Better than Ezra:
Before The Robots

Reviewed by Mike Farley

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I
t’s not that Better Than Ezra ever went away. It’s just that their last album, 2001’s Closer, never really got off the ground. Unfortunately for BTE, it’s because their last major label release, How Does Your Garden Grow, was such a fan favorite and was a hard act to follow. Now on Artemis, one of the larger indie labels with some marketing juice, Before the Robots should satisfy the most fickle of BTE’s existing fans and help them continue to build that fan base. The songs are simply some of the best material that this New Orleans-based band has ever released.

“Burned” is vintage Better Than Ezra, guitar-driven pop that is melodic equivalent of cotton candy. And true to form, BTE has some more laid back songs that bring to mind the modern rock movement of the nineties, when the band made its biggest impact. “Daylight” is one of those songs, and its breezy nature could have made it a hit song even thirty years ago. “A Lifetime,” the first single, is a re-release from Closer, and a touching yet lighthearted song about the untimely death of a friend. “It’s Only Natural” (not a cover of the Crowded House song) has a shuffling groove and “Overcome” is a loop-filled piece that at times sounds a little too much like U2’s “One.”

“Special” is a moody song that really showcases the instantly recognizable voice of lead singer Kevin Griffin. “American Dream” might be at home on a Tom Petty record, and “Our Last Night” is another chunk of ear candy. The hit parade continues with the funky riff-driven “A Southern Thing” and simply funky “Juicy,” then closes out with the powerful “Breathless.”

Bands like Better Than Ezra tend to stick around and/or resurface every now and then, because of Griffin’s unmistakable voice and because they keep churning out good records. They also have a road warrior mentality about touring, which puts them in front of their fan base constantly. In the case of Before the Robots, let’s just say this album will be really hard to top. Fans, get ready to feed your iPods.

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