Disc Reviews: Kate Perry, The Fratellis, and Gavin Rossdale

Coming out of nowhere with the smash hit "I Kissed a Girl," former contemporary Christian singer Katy Perry has fallen off the straight and narrow.

Katy Perry 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Katy Perry 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
KATY PERRY One of the Boys (NMC) Coming out of nowhere with the smash hit "I Kissed a Girl," former contemporary Christian singer Katy Perry has evidently fallen off the straight and narrow. Crass would be the best description of her breakout album One of the Boys. Oh, and maybe plastic. It seems like Perry gathered all the ugly tabloid exploits of cover girls like Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan and used them as role models to compose the shameless lyrics that would even have the "plastics" in Lohan's Mean Girls blushing. By celebrating Las Vegas hangovers, demeaning sexually confused friends, bragging about kissing a girl like it was a conquest, and proudly pandering to the mall culture the music is geared to, Perry comes across as a really unpleasant person. Luckily for Perry, she had some heavyweight help, from mega producers like Glen Ballard, Desmond Child and Max Martin (of "Baby, Hit me One More Time" fame) to polish the songs with an infectious sheen that recalls a third-rate Avril Lavigne. They've got the right ingredients - the melodies, the arrangements and the musicianship, they just lack any soul or sense of honesty. That's why One of the Boys has become such a success - it's the musical equivalent of a Happy Meal. THE FRATELLIS Here We Stand (Helicon) The Fratellis are a Scottish rocking delight. Combining brashly youthful indie pop with a sense of '70s classic rock fun and even a hint of vintage Elton John tunefulness, the guitar/bass/drums trio follows up its 2007 debut Costello Music with the boisterous Here We Stand. These energetic songs would sound equally inspiring down at the pub or in a packed club, with the band never taking itself too seriously in search of that not-so-elusive memorable guitar riff. Adopting the time-honored tradition of joint last names, ala The Ramones, Jon, Mince and Barry Fratelli sound like they're having a blast on the bouncy power pop of "Mistress Mabel," the twangy "Shameless" and the swaggering "Acid Jazz Singer," all possessing killer choruses. They even tone things down successfully with the '60s folk-rocky "Baby Doll," tackle '50s trash rock with "Lupe Brown" and reach their inner Elton on "Milk and Honey." It's no wonder they named their debut Costello Music, because Elvis's pop music encyclopedic knowledge is something that The Fratellis share with their hero, and they demonstrate it in spades on Here We Stand. GAVIN ROSSDALE Wanderlust (Helicon) Mr. Gwen Stefani has adopted a pretty low profile since establishing himself as a mid-'90s modern rock icon with his band Bush. Aside from an aborted attempt at alternative rock with Institute in 2005, Gavin Rossdale has preferred to take a step back and let his wife shine in the spotlight. His first solo effort, Wanderlust, won't do much to shift the spotlight back toward him. Strangely generic and sounding like an American Idol version of how rock should sound, ala Daughtry or David Cook, Wanderlust demonstrates that Rossdale can play that part well. Songs like "Can't Stop the World," "Frontline" and "Forever May You Run" possess middle-of-the-road crossover hit quality. It sort of all sounds dated, like an '80s INXS record. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but unlike the suggestion in the title, there doesn't seem to be any real wanderlust here. It sounds more like a holiday from changing the kids' diapers.