Shades Apart Eyewitness

I don't care what anyone says, something happens to punk bands when they join major labels. In the case of New Jersey trio Shades Apart, that something is they've gone soft. From their blistering 1988 debut right through 1997's Seeing Things, the band has always written great, but by no means simplistic, pop hooks and Eyewitness certainly has plenty of them. But with the tampering of label influences and producer Lou Giordano, the punk edge that in the past played off against the pop sensibility has been completely diluted. "It was an adjustment for some people," guitarist and vocalist Mark V. admits. Most of the dozen songs sound like they were written to be played faster, but have somewhere along the line been slowed down. Even the re-recording of "Second Chances," one of the best songs on Seeing Things, sounds like the band was forced to wade through molasses while recording. Mark chalks it up to an affinity for the Police and other bands of that era. "That's definitely come to the forefront," says Mark. "When we were doing demos we hit a sound we honed in on and it was getting back to our influences like the early '80s New Wave sound." Shades Apart have strayed into this territory before, most notably on the rarely heard Neon disc. But even then their slow, melodic pop was complemented by intensity to create some truly brilliant music. They followed that experiment up with Save It, a blistering full-on punk album. "That's our cycle," says Mark optimistically. "Our first release was our hardest and then we got a little more moody. Neon was our attempt at making a pop record and then after that we made another hateful record [Save It] and then Seeing Things was kind of a transitional record with this one being a pop record again. The next one should be real rocker." Let's hope so, anyway. (Universal)