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Pat DiNizio - Songs And Sounds
(Velvel)

If you grew up in New Jersey in the '80s, you listened to The Smithereens. Even if you didn't dig their earnest mix of '60s-influenced rockers and ballads strummed ferociously on jangly Rickenbacker guitars and fed paradoxically through crunchy Marshall amps, you had to admit they had a distinctive pop sound. For a few years there, the band could be counted on to turn out catchy, marginally successful radio singles and overall solid albums with less than the average amount of filler.

Ten years after their fine debut record Especially For You comes the first solo record from frontman Pat DiNizio, and it's debatable whether anyone cares. Shame, too; though Songs And Sounds isn't quite the equal of the man's previous glories, it's not so far off, either. There are a number of Smithereensian momentsó"124 MPH" with its bouncy beat and four-word singalong chorus; the straight-out, sub-three-minute pop of "Everyday World" and "Today It's You;" and the simple ballad "No Love Lost." A few jazzy saxophone solos are perhaps the only new sonic wrinkle in what is otherwise a return to the tasteful production DiNizio's band was known for before the turn of the '90s.

If it all seems a bit less fun without his longtime mates backing him up, that's understandable. He may not have all that many new things to say, but give the cat some credit. At least he remembers where he came from.

YEAH YEAH YEAH, 1997