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Leaves
BREATHE
(DreamWorks)
Stars graphics

Fans of Coldplay and Catherine Wheel may dig this foursome, the latest entry in the Icelandic rock sweepstakes. Thereís a sense of simmering scope to their music, and shameless romanticism, too, in numbers like the catchy, easy-flowing "Sunday Lover" and the minor-key guitar-fest single "Crazy." Coldplay are an evolutionary step down from Catherine Wheelís widescreen passion, and Leaves a qualitative level down from that. But at a time when imaginative sonics and skillful rock tunesmithing are too often divorced, these guys at least offer proof that not every new major-label signing plying those fields is brain-dead.

That may seem like faint praise for a band whose album goes down so smoothly, whose vocalist ó Arnar Gudjonsson ó has a warm and generous way with melodies, and who, itís clear, can play their asses off. But the disc really needs a few pricks ó some rough edges, some musical outbursts and surprises to let us know theyíre not all doped up on some kind of Land of the Midnight Sun soma. And those just ainít there, no matter how beautifully the guitar leads of "Epitaph" quaver and buzz or how tiny touches of overpowered echo and feedback set off the mix. Thereís got to be an element of danger, a rude outburst, at least one whacked wall of wailing guitars, or things just donít rock enough. Thatís what would transform this CD from an appealing listen into a terrific disc. Breathe suggests that Leaves have the raw material to be a great live band, the potential to be sonic surrealists with a real edge in concert ó provided they turn the amps up and the safety valves off and donít wuss out on stage.

BY TED DROZDOWSKI


Issue Date: October 17 - 23, 2003
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