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Pick of the Month - May 2001

Stereo Girl
Artist: Element 101
Label: Tooth and Nail
 

There are many, many, many, bands in this world, some good, some not. We all compare bands to other bands: "They sound a lot like…."  In reviews, I often list a few artists of similar style and sound to give you, the assiduous reader of my ramblings, an idea of what to expect when the reviewed album is listened to. I admit that with Element 101 I got nothing. This quintet from New Jersey plays a style of girl-fronted-power-pop/punk all their own. They are different than anything else I have heard, but does different automatically mean good? 

Not necessarily. We (young people, Americans, music listeners, everyone…) tend to put value in something based wholly on its deviance from the norm and not based on any merits of its own. Though originality and talent should be noticed and rewarded, those qualities do not guarantee "good." Good, of course, is completely subjective. Now after all that, you are probably wondering what I am getting at and what the heck it has to do with Element 101. I shall reward your patience. Element 101 is different. They are unique. Are they good? Sort of. (very decisive, eh)

_Stereo Girl _ is the third effort from Element 101. Crissie Verhagen fronts the band, and she has solid musicians behind her. This album is relatively upbeat and musically strong (or at least as strong as punk/pop can be). As I said, the band is tight and Verhagen’s vocals fit the music well. The lyrics are positive and easily picked up and sang along with. They do what they do very well. I know, you are asking "What do they do?" That question is easier asked than answered. There is a definite mid-paced punk feel to parts of this album, but an overall pop sound dominates. There is a heavy touch of the ‘50s and a little ‘80s thrown in. I really enjoyed the ‘50s pop flavor for a song or two, but it began to wear on me after that. Element 101 is at their best with the straight ahead pop/punk ditties with big hooks and upbeat rhythms. The disc begins to run together for me after a few listens. The production, by the way, is very good. 

This album isn’t bad. It has a standout song in "Standing on the Edge of Night," but it kind of ends there for me. There just aren’t any really good songs. The record is full of great ideas and sounds, I just could not get into any of it. I would suggest that everyone check out a few tracks. I could see a lot of people really enjoying this album. I just wasn’t one of them.

Matthew Riddle 4/9/2001

   
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