Velvet Crush Stereo Blues

After working together for close to 20 years, there can’t be many surprises left for Ric Menck and Paul Chastain. And so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Stereo Blues is pretty much business as usual for Velvet Crush, shifting away from the melancholy of 2002's Soft Sounds and back to the guitar dominance of their earlier records. Album number six for the band finds them treading water instead of swimming hard for unexplored territory. And while they can both still write a darned good hook, sometimes that just isn’t enough. Though the spirit of Matthew Sweet is still very much present, he isn’t here, as Adam Schmitt takes his place as both producer and additional guitarist. Schmitt’s touch is a little more heavy-handed than Sweet, ensuring that this isn’t a subtle record. Right from the noisy introduction of "Rusted Star,” to the closing moments of "Get Yourself Right,” there is little respite from aural bludgeoning, relatively speaking. That’s why the country-tinged closer, "Great To Be Fine,” helps to redress the balance somewhat and end things on one of the album’s mellower highlights. Still, from a band who seem incapable of making a bad album, Stereo Blues is a little on the unsatisfying side because it seems like their evolution may have stalled for now. We’ve heard this all before. (Action Musik)