And You Think You Know What Life’s About

A & M

Dishwalla are like Stabbing Westward on Prozac: All the energetic heaviness without the maudlin self-indulgence. Hypothetically speaking, their style of pop is similar to what the Carpenters might have sounded like if they’d begun their career in the ’90s instead of the ’60s. Call it “modern soft metal”! Lead singer, JR Richard’s voice sounds like Bono’s with all the rough edges polished to a smooth sheen. And I just can’t get enough. Where Pet Your Friends was loaded with soft-focus spirituality and PC platitudes, And You Think You Know What Life’s About turns that focus inward. Richard’s penned these 12 songs over a three-year period the band spent on tour. Not surprisingly, the opening cut, “Stay Awake” (dabbling in a bit of drum and bass), addresses the problem of insomnia. “Bottom of the Floor” (whose lyrics give the album its title) is a straightforward, wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee scenario. “Until I Wake Up,” arguably the album’s strongest cut, explores the pure escapism of losing oneself in sleep with an underlaying, bittersweet ache.

The big rushes of guitar and sweeping keyboard effects on “Once in Awhile” produce a sonic wash of aural pleasure and the chorus, “When you close your eyes/do you like what you see/inside your mind” perfectly illustrates Richard’s particular self-reflective obsession. “Truth Serum”‘s languid groove starts out like a soulful take on Hooverphonic’s “2Wicky” and “So Blind” revisits the new wave greatness of forgotten bands like Talk Talk. I feel the same way about Dishwalla that I do about a vanilla ice cream cone: It’s a sweet indulgence, but it makes me feel good and, well, it’s delicious. A & M Records, 825 8th Ave., 27th Floor, New York, NY 10019

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