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Lenny Kravitz

Lenny (Virgin)

Lenny, Lenny, what happened? Things were going so well. You had chalked up three monster singles and graduated from playing halls to amphitheaters. And you were putting out solid music beyond the sometimes unfair "retro rock" tag. So why is your crucial new record easily the weakest in your entire catalog? Did you lose your mind with your dreads?

Lenny is a disappointing journey from start to finish, buoyed by only a handful of bright spots. Knowing Kravitz is capable of so much more, this feels like a hastily cobbled together jumble of outtakes.

Never the strongest lyricist, Kravitz sinks to new literary lows here. At best, couplets like "strife/life," "money/ honey" and "sacrifice/ paradise" would earn a C-plus in high school poetry class. The plodding clichés continue with the title "Yesterday Is Gone," and then Kravitz intones that he's a soldier on the "Battlefield of Love" (didn't Pat Benatar beat him to that Tora Bora de amor by about 20 years?). And when he exhorts "Let's Get High," it's -- surprise! -- on luuvvv! Who woulda thunk? Perhaps it's time for Kravitz to gaze beyond his own precious soul for material.

Musically, there's neither the dark adventurousness of Circus nor the righteous rock and meaningful ballads of 5.Vocal effects and techno beats plow previously charted territory, and he's definitely hit his quota of songs about the deep cosmic consciousness of love. At any rate, his moans about romance on "If I Could Fall in Love," "You Were in My Heart" and "Stillness of Heart" are hardly convincing.

The two bright spots on the record are both forceful rockers: the catchy call to arms "Dig In" and the anarchic "Bank Robber Man." The latter -- complete with cop car sirens -- is a tongue-in-cheek recollection of Kravitz's real-life misadventure at the hands of police who mistook him for a stickup artist. It has the hint of humor and joyous abandon sorely missing on the rest of Lenny. Maybe he should get handcuffed more often -- and not just by European supermodels.

Kravitz has always had a more-than-healthy dose of egotism and a cooler-than-thou vibe that colors even fans' appreciation of his music. It's no accident that the man who is president and sergeant-at-arms of his own fan club has sported shades that all but scream "Rock Star!" on four of his last five record covers. But then in interviews Kravitz whines that people don't look beyond "the clothes, the hair and the women." Why should they? He does everything in his power to push all three to the forefront.

While Lenny may find him bowing before his maker on its other decent track, "God Save Us All," it's clear that Kravitz still knows he's the Christ of Cool. Maybe it's time to come down off the cross.

 
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