The Cringe - Play Thing
As evidenced on The Cringe's new CD Play Thing, sometimes tightly arranged radio-friendly alternative rock is more a lost art and less of an insult.
It seems in the race for neo-indie hipster supremacy, a solid but unspectacular rock band can get lost in the shuffle of the experimentalists trying to out-cool each other.
The Cringe rock their way through 12 slickly produced tracks that would be great for either a road trip or a backyard kegger. Sure, some of it comes off a bit formulaic and at times forgettable, but it's a decnt rock and roll album.
Calling the production "slick" is sometimes also viewed as some sort of insult. But with these crunching guitars and precise drums, it works perfectly.
The Cringe is led by lead vocalist and songwriter John Cusimano. His cohorts in this New York City-based groups are lead guitarist James Rotondi (ex Air, Mr. Bungle), drummer Shawn Pelton (Saturday Night Live band) and bassist Jonny Matias (ex Crash Moderns). Cusimano's vocals sounded familiar and at times almost approached Axl Rose territory (but without the annoying whine) and then I realized: he sounds like Jon Bon Jovi. Again, I don't mean that in a bad way. He just has a similar voice quality. And it works well on top of the restrained power of the band and its songs.
Interspersed with the rockers are a few mid-tempo not-quite-power-ballad songs that are among the standouts. Two of my favorite songs and ones I found most challenging were found in the track 10 and 12 slots, but that's okay as the album starts strong and they keep it from limping over the finish line.
At times it sounds like the Foo Fighters playing their favorite Soundgarden and Green Day songs. The musicianship and high quality studio craft elevate somewhat average songs to a winning mix of tunes begging to be cranked.
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