Cassius Clay

Cassius Clay

Special Guest Star

CIA

On first listen, it’s easy to dismiss Cassius Clay as yet another alt-radio wanna be — a little Foo Fighters angularity here, a dash of Chili Peppers there, add a shot of Everclear, shake and pre-digest for an audience of thousands of jocks between Limp Bizkit and Staind cuts. But that would be doing the band a horrible injustice, and on listening to Special Guest Star a few times, the power pop hooks start to kick in, and you realize that tracks like “AM Radio” are actually catchier, more complex, and less calculated than all that, and as you get deeper into the album, the tracks get better and better. Early tracks like “Been Waiting,” “More Like Me,” and “Lemon Tree” contribute greatly to the early impression, but then the cool Elvis Costello/Joe Jackson flavor of “Fucked Me Over” kicks in, layered with cool harmonies and vintage-sounding keys, and the record gets to be a lot more interesting. The poppy, boppy “Sweating Bullets” continues along these lines, but is even more insistent and irresistible. By the time you reach “Simulated Actions,” you’re bopping along, then “Dress Up in Real Life” takes an even odder, even catchier Rentals-like turn, and “Every Time” puts a nice bow on as it closes the package. So yeah, these guys could make it big on the so-called “alternative” stations, as they’d have plenty of appeal for that crowd, but I think people that appreciate a little more substance and craftsmanship would find a lot here for them, too. A solid debut that leaves me interested in discovering what Cassius Clay will do next (and hoping that they’ll follow the lead of the album’s later tracks).

CIA Records, cassiusrocks@aol.com

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