Twenty Four Count

Twenty Four Count is plagued by an identity crisis.

It's hard to knock a band for trying, which Twenty Four Count certainly does here. From sensitive balladry to nice-guy rockers, this quintet makes a noise that's fairly accessible. But unlike the acts that appear to influence them (matchbox twenty, Barenaked Ladies), the members of Twenty Four Count rarely seem on the same page.

Not quite pop and not quite hippie rock, the group suffers an identity crisis throughout Depth of View. At times the combined guitars of Steve Gibbs and Billy Robinson sound as if they'd be more at home in a jam band. But other moments find the two cranking out hard rock that drowns out the rest of the band.

The opening track, "Fall," begins with a steady guitar wash that sounds on the cusp of cutting loose. But before the distorted riff can pick up steam, the rest of the group kicks in with a jangly arrangement and quickened vocal line. It's friendly music, perhaps overbearingly so.

Meanwhile, vocalist Paul Gross exhibits plenty of confidence, but little range. His zippy delivery and subtle improvs are somewhat impressive at first, but boredom sets in after the third time he employs such tactics. Noticeably AWOL is the rhythm section (especially Matt Radliff's bass), which is barely audible in the murky mix.

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Despite the shoddy production, some of the songs are decently crafted, with smart hooks and arrangements that border on professional. Outside of that, there's little to recommend unless you like your pop as watered down as iced near beer. As for the lyrics, the guys favor trite, sugary confections coated with gooey romanticism. Here's a heaping slice of that cloying cake, cooed by Gross over a dreary piano line on "Tonight": "Let me touch your skin in the cool night air / Let me run my fingers through your hair."

Some of these tunes have radio potential -- well, they would if guitarists Gibbs and Robinson displayed even a little restraint. It's as if they couldn't make up their minds whether to tone it down or crank it up, so they did both. When the duo isn't dishing out white-boy funk, it's manufacturing tuneless rock riffs. Gross, on the other hand, is only too happy to abet the whole mess by hamming it up.

Concluding the record is the requisite double super-secret bonus track, in this case a rap/funk tune. "Our music's got the heart / our music's got the soul / we're throwin' down beats for the young and the old," Gross raps before the record limps to a merciful end, this time for real. Such revelry might be enough to kick-start the party at a Twenty Four Count gig, but on this record, it's as misguided as the band's overall direction.

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