Muckrakers Front of the Parade

Just when you thought you’d gotten that last grotesque fill of the Verve Pipe or Toad the Wet Sprocket or any of the other ’90s "alternative” acts out of your memory, the Muckrakers make a desperate plea: hear us out. The plea is earnest, and the songs serious in their squandering quest to be the next "Freshmen,” but it’s hard to even fake interest in this kind of bland FM rock anymore. Melodies come in a succession of clichés, arrangements are kept to the same wallpaper flourishes, and the lyrics, well, they’re about as incidental and ham-fisted as you’d expect from a Verve Pipe protégé. And I continue to make that parallel for more reason than Rob Carpenter’s eerie facsimile of Brian Vander Ark; music so void of personality or basic understanding of what can make a pop song interesting — something to say, a unique melodic twist, a fucking hook, at least — is doomed to meet the same fate as their forbearers, given enough time and boring music. Bland on, Muckrakers. Bland on. (Paramount)