On Maudlin Street, where power rock meets romantic longing, the Demigods reign. On its recent self-release Polyphonic, the band fusses over obsessive, nearly unhealthy love. "You, you are the one for me / You're everything I want, you and me / We make a perfect pair / Ooohh, spank me there / Do you want to?" sings Susan Conte on the opening track, "Kink." Her voice seems to tug at the lyrics the way a good Hallmark card pulls on the heart strings.
Matching subject with sound, this quartet tries to cast an intoxicating spell the same way love does. But the charm, more often than not, doesn't quite work.
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Solidly crafted, the Demigods' songs either slink with a wicked whine, suggesting a heavy-rock influence in the vein of Rush or Dream Theater, or they reveal crisp and clear pop-rock aspirations. "Sublime" (another love song) and "Alleged Heroes" are adequate, inoffensive and radio-friendly. Laurance Baker's jangling percussion adds well-proportioned structure to both, while Tom Potthast's bass and Steve Strohmeyer's guitar are played in sync, creating smooth transitions. The strength of the band lies in its technical ability.
But the album suffers from serious flaws, mainly an unvarying mid-tempo beat and excessive echo effects on the vocals, which verge on cheesiness. Most annoying is the band's fondness for unnecessary repetition. On "Tecaba Train," Conte sings each line twice, not for any apparent emphasis. In "Alluring Allusive Dream," the song title is the chorus, hardly a compelling one. In all, the lyrics are generally shallow, much like the romantic fixations Conte recounts in each song.
Conte's voice is distinctive in that it's not sweet and fluffy like those of so many other female singers today. Yet her enunciation seems stilted, and she possesses a bit of a whine that makes her sound like the female counterpart to Rush's Geddy Lee.
Everybody can relate to the subjects of lust and love, but not everybody will connect to these songs. Ultimately the nine songs on this album don't inspire the listener. The Demigods' music appeals to a small, enthusiastic group. The rest of us just shrug and shake our heads, the same way we do when we wonder what a love-struck person sees in a loser.