Music Notes

MXPX "Before Everything and After" (AM Records)

***

This year, the perennial pop-punk albums from bands you hate will rear their ugly heads and terrorize your radio. "Before Everything and After" is not one of those albums. In a genre that has become repetitive at best, intolerable at worst, MXPX shows why it is returning to claim its place in the pantheon of cool punk bands.

Borrowing producer Dave Jerden from 2000 tour mates, the Offspring, MXPX gives a well-assembled and entertaining performance with a variety of song types. While "Everything Sucks (When You're Gone)" is supposed to be the marquee track on the album, "You're not Alone" and "Quit your Life" could be valid radio ballads. For the more caffeine-inclined, "Brokenhearted" and "Well Adjusted" provide plenty of fodder for the band's future Warped Tour treks.

- GEORGE MELISSINOS

Sondre Lerche "Faces Down" (Astralwerks)

****

Norwegian prodigy Sondre Lerche, 20, who has found himself on tour with everyone from Nada Surf to Liz Phair, seems almost too good to be true.

At just sixteen-years-old, Lerche wrote his debut, "Faces Down." Lerche claims to write simply about life and emotions. The result is a beautifully mellow LP that finds the ideal balance between pop and maturity.

Lerche is an ambitious songwriter, which is exemplified in tracks like "Dead Passengers," "Sleep on Needles" and "No One's Gonna Come," all of which are impeccably produced. Traces of violins, organs and harmonized female backup vocals can be heard throughout. It has the charm to appeal to people from indie-purists to Norah Jones fans.

- COSTA CALOUDAS

My Ruin "The Shape of Things to Come" (Century Media)

***

My Ruin has prefaced their return to the scene of metal too scary for radio, but not quite as scary as death metal, with an EP aptly titled "The Shape Of Things To Come."

Singer Tarrie B, formerly of Manhole and Tura Satana, screeches and growls her way through the five tracks on the EP with the primary purpose to give fans a slight taste of blood before My Ruin's "The Horror of Beauty" reaches stores this year.

However, this limited edition EP contains only one track from the forthcoming full-length, the ripping "Made To Measure" which opens the album with the force of a thousand demons driving rusty nails through your ear drums. Another highlight is "Unmanageable," a mess of sludgy guitars and twisting effects over driving percussion, reminiscent of Down or early Kittie material.

Overall, My Ruin wretches in your mind during "The Shape of Things To Come" leaving the listener wondering, just what is to come?

- MATT RAJPUT

SouthFM "Drama Kids" (MCA Records)

** 1/2

There is no shortage of alternative rock bands that make enjoyable, but unoriginal music. SouthFM is not an exception to this rule; its brand of alternative rock a la Seether and the Goo Goo Dolls is truly well-written and well-played, but is not necessarily unique or innovative.

"Drama Kids," the band's first album, is a balanced mix of acoustic ballads and heavier guitar-driven rock. The slow and echoing "As You Dream" is the standout song and "Eve," another of the better songs, could be mistaken for Chevelle.

SouthFM gets bonus points for its lyrics that are extremely poetic for the most part, although lines like "Dear Claudia, you should try not to sleep with your best friend's boyfriend," are insipid at best.

Although an un-distinctive album, SouthFM clearly knows the brand of music that sells and has used this knowledge to its advantage. There is really no question that SouthFM was made for MTV2.

-EMILY ZEMLER

Twisted Method "Escape From Cape Coma" (MCA Records)

* 1/2

Fairly generic nu-metal is probably the best way to describe Twisted Method. Having just gotten off a side-stage gig at this year's lackluster Ozzfest, Twisted Method are trying to gain entry into the quickly diminishing group of successful nu-metal bands, but do not really bring anything new.

Twisted Method sounds a lot like a mix of Sevendust and Taproot. "Escape From Cape Coma" deals with the same old topics like verbal and mental abuse, breaking up with girls and just general anger. Twisted Method is not really that bad but it is not good enough to gain the type of following that Limp Bizkit, Disturbed, Korn or Linkin Park has. The band seems like it will forever be the opening band for bigger acts.

If all nu-metal has to offer is bands like Twisted Method, the genre may fade faster than expected.

- JORGE DEL PINAL

From Autumn to Ashes

"The Fiction We Live" (Vagrant)

**

Gut-wrenching screaming with thrashing guitars, breakdowns and frantic, pulsing beats are one side of From Autumn to Ashes. This band also features angst-ridden singing and mellow musical interludes, creating a blend of hardcore and screamo.

From Autumn initially impressed listeners with an intense, distraught and frenzied debut album, "Too Bad You're Beautiful." With its second effort "The Fiction We Live," the band used more singing, revealing a softer sound only hinted at on its first release.

From Autumn to Ashes is at its best on this album with songs like "The Second Wrong Makes you Feel Right," which intertwines screaming and singing. Slower tracks featuring only melodic vocals disrupt the flow of the album.

Offering an eclectic combination of thrashing intensity and somber melody, "The Fiction We Live" is a decent sophomore effort for the band.

- LAURA KAPLAN

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