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(photo credit: Israeli21c.org )
If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, then Chris Martin and Coldplay would be quite smitten if they heard To Infinity, the debut by Israeli band missFlag.
The Jerusalem-based quintet's approach is a dead ringer for Coldplay's sensitive, expansive music, while Ohad Ellam's vocals even share the same upper register as Martin's soulful sojourns into the stratosphere.
However, if you can somehow set aside the seemingly blatant copycat elements - the falsetto flourishes of "Blinded By Pride" or the herky-jerky time signatures of the title cut - the band is capable of standing on its own merits.
Earnest, tuneful songs like "Hidden Thieves" and "Twisted Reaching Hands" possess all the elements necessary to sear themselves into the listener's memory, and even though the group's blend of wiry guitar work and Floydian strings veers towards prog rock at times, they manage to rein in their navel gazing tendencies with disciplined pop instincts.
The album falls into a midlife rut with a couple nondescript dozers such as "Run" and "You", but rebounds late in the game with the synchopated "Dive, Rise and Win" and the majestic closer "Let It Show."
What prevents the album from really rising above the pack is the somewhat toothless production, which removes the potential edges that would make the music more forceful and energetic.
But despite that, To Infinity is an auspicious debut, especially for an Israeli band singing in English. Just like you could never tell The Beatles were British when they were singing, Ellam's vocals and his capable lyrics rarely show a sign that he's not a native English speaker.
Since that's almost a prerequisite in the music biz, missFlag certainly has the tools to become the first Israeli rock band to really break out in a big way.
Once they build the confidence to step out beyond their Coldplay fixation and find their own voice, they're likely to leave a lasting impression.
Saturday Night Wrist
If you are required to listen to heavy riffing music, then the Deftones are a good choice, as their music is more layered and intelligent than your average headbanger. Lumped together with metal acts like Korn, Tool and Limp Bizkit, the California band is actually considerably more mature and thoughtful than their contemporaries, and their new album Saturday Night Wrist succeeds as contemporary rock, not just metal.
While they can play Ozzfest or a Family Values tour, they also have the versatility and finesse to offset the bludgeoning elements with ethereal, delicate passages, and pop melodies.
The opening track "Hole in the Earth" is a good example of the quintet's ability to combine a metallic veneer with a hipper indie sound. "Cherry Waves" demonstrates their versatility, with its dance floor dub effects and psychedelic sound melded to arena rock hooks. One fan calls Deftones' style "blast and croon", and on Saturday Night Wrist, they've perfected that patent.