CD Review of Redhead by Bleu
Bleu: Redhead
Label
Red Int/Red Ink
Bleu: Redhead

Reviewed by David Medsker

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B
leu, or William James McAuley III if you're his mother, made a lot of people take notice of him last year with the inclusion of "Somebody Else" on the Spider-Man soundtrack. The only problem is, he didn't get noticed in the way that he would have liked. A slow, guitar-driven dirge the likes of which Creed can churn out in their sleep (insert your own joke here), the song just ain't that good, which meant it fit right in with everything else on the Spider-Man soundtrack.

There's just one teensy little problem: Bleu is actually a modestly talented guy, if a bit lyrically challenged, who's much better, and different, than "Somebody Else" would suggest. Redhead, his new album, has moments of power pop genius that owe more to Cheap Trick than today's mope rockers. If anything, Redhead recalls another pop rock album from a few years ago, a young musical progeny by the name of Tal Bachman who liked to mix rockers and ballads with equal flair. Bachman's album, however, was admittedly more consistent. Blame Redhead's second half, where the ballads bog down rather than slow down.

The album is practically broken down into sides, with the rockers coming on "Side I" and the ballads taking over Side II. Leadoff track "Get Up" is one of the album's finer moments, with a hard but bouncy Brit pop beat and some nifty production tweaks (by Andrew W.K. producer John Fields). The best song here, bar none, is "We'll Do It All Again," which is easily the best song Cheap Trick never wrote. It's a reach-for-the-sky tearjerker of a rocker in the vein of "Tonight It's You" with the best vocal on the album. Stunning.

Where the album strays is in its needless dependence on ballads. The first real ballad, "Watching You Sleep," in fact, is downright creepy. The title seems cute, in a Marshall Crenshaw "What Do You Dream Of" kind of way, but the next line after the song's title in the chorus is, "Right outside your window," which puts it closer to "Every Breath You Take" or the Carpenters' "Superstar" in terms of stalker anthems. Disturbing.

Luckily, not all of the ballads are death. "Somethin's Gotta Give" has a nice chorus, in an Ambrosia kind of way, and "Feet Don't Fail Me Now," which straddles the rocker/ballad line oh so delicately, winks knowingly to Todd Rundgren. Unfortunately, not all the rockers are good, either. Not even Andy Sturmer, the reclusive leader of the late, great Jellyfish, can save "Could Be Worse," a pedestrian track where Bleu sing-speaks ala "The Boys Are Back In Town."

Redhead sports some duff tracks, and some truly killer ones. Does that sound at all familiar? Yep, it sounds like every other artist currently on the radio, made to sell today and be forgotten today. The biggest difference is that Bleu, had he put his mind to it, could have made something special. Redhead is of his time but outside of it as well; he obviously remembers the halcyon days of intelligent pop, but at the same time isn't above writing a contemporary cash-in song, either. Recruiting Sturmer (as well as Semisonic's Dan Wilson) was a smart attempt at luring in the classic pop enthusiasts, but his desire to be a pop star right this second ultimately gives the game away.

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