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Tag, You're It
Artist: Adam's Housecat
Label: Hero Recording Company
Length: 73:57 minutes (10 tracks)

The Hero Recording Company is a small independent record label located near Charlotte, North Carolina representing a handful of artists whose music ranges from R&B to alternative country-rock.  For their Hero debut, Tag, You're It, the members of Adam's Housecat themselves would appear to have adopted their company's eclectic musical taste, covering everything from light-hearted novelty numbers to classic hard rock.

The fuzz-toned guitar intro and the wah-wah effects on the bridge of "Fourgotten" gives the song a definite psychedelic feel, while the heavily reverberated and atmospheric vocal and guitar work on the ethereal "Bryan's Lament" make it sound as if it could fit nicely into the soundtrack for, say, an underwater movie.  And the delightfully silly "Rasslin' Song," a lighthearted tribute to professional wrestler Ric Flair, with its outlandish comparison of the nWo wrestling organization to Satan worshipers, is a tongue-in-cheek novelty song carried off with a surprising amount of emotion and conviction.

But, as varied and nicely crafted as these songs are, the remainder of the album, by and large, isn't nearly as impressive or unique. "Walkaway" and "She Didn't Know It Would Kill Her," both sport awkward, near-monotonic vocals that fit poorly within their respective songs' rhythmic framework and wind up sounding like pale imitations of any number of acoustic-based folk/rock songs that now litter the rock and pop charts. Numbers like these and "Patty's Song," whose melody line is virtually identical to that of "Walkaway," though innocuous enough, are nonetheless overturned by their derivative composition and overly repetitious chord structures.  Adding to the album's musical woes, the bulk of its lyrics come across as less than inspired.  While the motivation for "Secrets," an ode to one's spouse, is certainly noble enough, the song's amateurish wordage (Don't cry when you think about me/Don't try to dream of life without me/I'm so afraid now, but tomorrow I'll be fine/So be patient, baby, and give our love some time) effectively overrides its gallant sentiment.  And lyrics such as those to "Walkaway" (If we'll see the big picture/We're just two people in a big old world/Trying to find our way/One a little boy and one a little girl) come across as mostly overreaching and clichéd.

None of this, however, is to say that the album doesn't have its bright spots.  The Eastern-flavored "Diwali" employs an engagingly dissonant chord structure and tight, soaring harmonies against a time signature that changes just often enough to lend the song a sense of variety without causing it to seem overly disjointed.  The album-closing "Picture" works the unlikely combination of wailing dobro, lively acoustic guitar and interspersed electronic percussion to splendid effect, easily making it the release's standout track and, indeed, an extraordinary number in its own right. Still, efforts like these are the exception and not the rule, with the weaker songs far outnumbering the strong ones.  All said and done, the release is ultimately submerged by the inescapable feeling of having heard it all several times before.

Bert Gangl 12/11/99


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