EVEN - Even (Rubber Records/El Reno/EMI)
There's not much wrong with this, the fifth album from the long-serving powerpop Melbourne trio, so why doesn't it grab me by the ears and smack me around like a rag doll with its mastery of the timeless guitar-with-melody idiom? You could write a whole review around that question. So let's go.

Something of an institution in their hometown, Even have a lot going for them. There's Ash Naylor on guitar, songs and voice and he's like Mr Everyman for Aussie music with a pop heartbeat that's not manufactured crap. Wally Kempton on vocals and bass is a survivor of punk-popsters The Meanies, a venerable pack with rocking smarts (even if I never really got them when they were regularly on Australian stages.) And drummer Matthew Cotter lays it down in solid style.

Importantly, these are often strong songs with lead-off single "I Am The Light", the catchy "Which Way To Run" and "The Common Law" keepers in particular. "I Walk On" has an uncommon grit and crunch in its guitar overdrive. Production is down to Wayne Connolly who's one of the best in the business. So it sounds fine.

Maybe it goes sadly awry with "The Fool Who Made You Sad", a country parody (at least to these non-country ears) that smacks of "The Girl With Far Away Eyes" except nowhere near funny. But most bands can get away with a clunker over the course of a long-player (that's what fast-forward is for.) But I forgot - "Sister Rock" is so lyrically straight-up and rhythmically plodding to be close to cliche. "Tangled Up" sounds like Ringo. Now, that is a worry.

Here's the rub. It's ultimately because this album is so damned even; it lives up to its name and the band moniker. It ain't half bad, but it offers no surprises either. Recorded over two years rather than a fortnight at three different studios, "Even" ultimately makes a case for more spontaneity next time and in the end sounds tired. A Beatles fan probably needed to review this. - The Barman