CD Review of Sleep Without Dreams by 2*Sweet
Recommended if you like
Faith No More, Helmet, Pavarotti
C. Walrus
Sleep Without Dreams

Reviewed by Jason Thompson


here has been many a rock band to come from the great city of Chicago, Illinois, and 2*Sweet is the latest in the continuing line of musical lineage from the Windy City. Now, before you get to thinking that this group is all about cute faces doing dance moves and singing fluffy pop songs, think again: 2*Sweet like to categorize themselves as “Chicago Doom Pop.” That title sounds rather original and intriguing, but honestly these guys aren’t mining any territory that the great Faith No More didn’t explore years ago. But with that band gone, perhaps 2*Sweet can pick up the mantle, even if vocalist Justin Gold isn’t quite Mike Patton, nor his band as adventurous as Patton’s old outfit.

But perhaps that comparison is a little unfair. After all, what these guys are really doing is the same old jackhammer pop-punk stuff with some dramatic vocals and slightly metal-tinged guitar riffs thrown on top. It’s almost an unsettling mix. You can picture this music being used to sell skateboards and Vans with its semi-happy-go-lucky blink 182 rhythms, but then the whole thing is gooped up with the dark side of minor key melodies and not-so-typical lyrics. Hey, who do these guys think they are? Don’t they know that the kids these days are all hopped up on Ritalin and suffer from various attention disorders? You can’t go shifting around like that, Sonny.

Yet shift they do, making 2*Sweet an oddball act if ever there was one. “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” is all Mike Pattonesque in the vocals with the sludgy guitars grinding away in the background, bringing to mind Metallica mixing it up with Helmet. Then the chorus comes around and things begin to soar. Like, really take off all crazy, man. Problem is, there’s not a whole lot to hang one’s hat on here. There are hints of a catchy melody, but nothing that really sticks to the walls. And while catchy melodies aren’t always required by any band, 2*Sweet’s tunes make it sound like they’re at least trying for something resembling a hook.

Why make it so darn difficult, then? Well, if you saddle yourself with a label like “doom pop,” you may as well make everyone toss their preconceived notions about you aside. But when dealing with tracks like “Life’s Black Ice,” which finds vocalist Gold really getting goofy with the Patton delivery one second and then trying to sound almost teenybopper sweet the next, you don’t know whether or not to take these guys seriously. Sure, the playing is solid, and the overall performances seem sincere, but perhaps the group is just trying a little too hard to live up to their label. Note to other groups: beware of using the adjective “doom” when describing your sound. If you’re not really in it to win it, you might want to just stick with something less succinct.

It’s not hard to imagine a track like “Funeral Moon” becoming a favorite somewhere, though. Perhaps it’s because it isn’t as leaden as some of the others, and the band actually gets to breathe a bit. The melody is tight, the guitars aren’t trying to figure out if they want to be all grumpy or actually rock, and while the track comes off sounding a bit “typical” if it were coming from any other group, here it makes for a nice little break in the action. “Friends ‘Til the Weekend” is similarly enjoyable (mostly), sounding like a more mannered version of Lagwagon.

So there you have it. Perhaps the finest offering of “doom pop” to be had anywhere. To these ears, 2*Sweet should stick to one style or the other. The mixing of the two on this disc just makes everything sound a little schizo. While that may be all in the master plan, it doesn’t mean the listeners should necessarily feel like they’re only halfway enjoying it. Do we rock or do we mope? If we’re doing both, hasn’t it already been done better elsewhere? Yes it has. But then again, what hasn’t these days?

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