‘Built to last’

Adam Griffiths

No one’s really given Keane a run for its money yet. But everyone’s favorite English boys-next-door should take heed — a group of southern California twenty-somethings may be slowly encroaching on their status as the go-to feel-good artist.

With their sophomore release, Devil & Angels, Orange County-bred Mêlée proves that it has what it takes to compete with their more celebrated peers.

The album features the comfortable vocals of lead singer Chris Cron, who sounds like a younger Johnny Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, and a dominant, addicting Coldplay-esque piano part. There are strains that are reminiscent of Queen and, of course, the upbeat lyrics of the band’s previously mentioned English contemporaries.

But where the Goo Goo Dolls album’s get more and more brooding and Keane’s lyrics are often sweeping and generalized, Mêlée takes a risk in personalizing their own flavor of buoyant pop. They’re self-admitted softies who don’t have a problem having fun with the good and bad in life. Each song tells a story that, one way or another, ends up leaving you in a better mood. From “Built to Last,” the first single off the album, to the circa-early ’90s power jam “Frequently Baby (She’s A Teenage Maniac”) in which Cron accuses, “This was supposed to be my hit song/but I wasted it all on you,” Devils & Angels is arguably one of the freshest contributions to the genre since early Coldplay.

Cron’s vocals, and keyboards, actually fuel a good portion of the album. Blended vocals are perfect on “Rhythm of Rain” and express the band’s reaction to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina just two weeks after their visit. The old school 80s duo of “Stand Up” and “You Make My Dreams” rounds off the album on a high note.

But the problem with feel-good, though, is that it gets old — fast. There’s enough variety on Devils & Angels to keep you going, but with lines like, “I’d kiss you goodbye/ if I thought it would make you stay” on “Frequently Baby” and “With those fireworks and candlelight/you and I were made to get love right” on “Built to Last,” it feels at times that we’ve heard this all before, just a few tracks prior.

The band does a good job of balancing clich‚ stories with original melodies and creative approach, resulting in an album that is bound to turn some heads. Devils & Angels is a healthy progression for a small band that’s set to go big

“What I want you’ve got, and it might be hard to handle,” Cron claims on “You Make My Dreams.”

If they stick to what they’re good at it, we should only want more and more.


Devils and Angels

Released on Warner Bros. Records

Stater Rating (out of five): 3.0

Contact ALL correspondent Adam Griffiths at [email protected].