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The Heavenly States

Unlike the stripped-down rawk coming out of NYC these days, Oakland's Heavenly States prefer a dense layered wall of sound with guitar upon guitar upon keyboard upon violin. It's in those layers that the band's multitude of influences fight it out. Its eponymous debut's confluence of styles borders on the absurd: Punk, new wave, arena rock, roots rock, heavy metal, emo... if you can think of a rock subgenre from the past 30 years, it's here. I swear I even heard an Alan Parsons Project keyboard riff buried in there somewhere.

The States' melodies and attitude hold together these disparate influences. A pop rocker like "Beyond the Great Beyond" has a hook that'll stay with you long after the CD stops, even though it's built on several layers of contrasting sounds. On "Senseless Beauty," singer and guitarist Ted Nesseth blends anger, passion, humor, and cynicism: "The queen she will reign/And the rain makes me wet/And the wet is so sexual/The sex just complicates it." Lovely wordplay, even if it doesn't make too much sense. Meanwhile, punk energy powers the Green Day-style crunchy guitars of "Car Wash," but the album's depth is most evident in slower, more ponderous songs. On the epic ballad "Empire," Nesseth draws out the first phrase, "A hurricane," at a lugubrious pace, as if all the sorrow of the world and the troubles that caused them were on his mind. That's the kind of pomposity we want from our rock 'n' roll.

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Michael Gowan

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