Squint is closing in on greatness. And that's pretty wonderful indeed if your musical style of choice is guitar pop that turns tales of the heart into three-and-a-half-minute bursts of overdriven rock.

Vocalist/guitarist/lyricist Dane Adrian doesn't flinch when rummaging through his closet full of emotional skeletons. Instead, he polishes them up for mass consumption. If it sounds personal, that's because it is, and if you can relate to what you're hearing, that's because you've probably been there, too.

Adrian's ability to find the universal in the personal is saved from maudlin singer-songwriter territory by the music of the band. Formed in Michigan's Upper Peninsula but long based in Ruston, Louisiana, Squint comes to rock. The guitars of Adrian and Matt Frederickson are set on slice, while the rhythm section of Tote Burnett (drums) and Young Charles (bass) has at least as much in common with classic metal as early-21st-century guitar rock.

Squint's 1998 debut, beeker, was recorded here in Houston at Marco Saenz's Aztlan Recording and Production. In pursuit of the optimum "Squint sound" for CD number two, however, the band left nothing to chance and independently enlisted the services of producer Ed Stasium, whose credits include the Ramones, Soul Asylum, Talking Heads and Mick Jagger. That the band would hire a name producer on their own dime indicates how seriously they're pursuing the whole rock-and-roll grail. That Stasium agreed to put his name on the work of an "unknown" speaks to just how good the band is.

While the idea was to use the new disc as major-label bait, so far the worm is still on the hook. A September self-release is tentatively slated. In the meantime, Squint carries on unfazed, buoyed by long-term fans' ready acceptance of their new material and such nationwide recognition as winning Jim Beam/Rolling Stone's Band of the Week.

Love of the road doesn't hurt, either. As Adrian has said, "Rock and roll is fun!"

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Chris Smith