Better Than Ezra is touring on the heels of a minor MTV hit, a passable single called "Good," driven by a pretty admirable hook and leader Kevin Griffin's drawled vocals. It's not the band's fault that the song has lifted them out of the obscurity they're about to return to, nor that their record company is aggressively marketing this unexceptional southern boogieless band as "alternative." Of course, it's not Griffin's fault either that he's a lunkhead, but let's hold him to it anyway. Besides "Good" there's a sultry album starter, "In the Blood"; after that, things go a little awry. You notice primarily how the band strains for effect: one song has a short musical intro that comes to a dead stop to let Griffin melodramatically intone, "Where have you gone, my Rosealia?" Ugh, you think. Then there are little touches like the yodeled chorus of "Coyote," or the martial beat and hugely inappropriate snatches of backward guitar on the Mac Davis-y ballad "Heaven." "Teenager"--an overwrought paean to youth--is either a bathetic disaster or an impenetrable bit of irony, and the closer, "This Time of Year," is an agonizing acoustic ballad whose lyrics I'd like to quote at length to demonstrate Griffin's way with a cliche or twelve: "Well, I know there's a reason to change / I know there's a time for us / Think about the good times / And you live with all the bad / You can feel it in the air." In the fake alternative artist sweepstakes, these guys make Sheryl Crow look like PJ Harvey. Dishwalla opens. Thursday, April 20, 10 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 489-3160. Next Friday, April 21, 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 525-2508.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/John Chiasson.