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Ringside - Ringside
by Keavin Wiggins

Geffen has a solid find in Ringside and if they play their cards right, in the long run this band has the makings for superstardom . This album has radio airplay written all over it, not because the songs are insipid pop garbage, but because they employ a variety of elements of past hits and also their hook heavy development; more importantly the songs don't sound crafted for radio airplay but still grab the listener. In other words, they have the making of honest hits, not manufactured ones.  

To nail down a solid comparison to other bands is hard since there are many artists you can turn to when drawing comparisons that range from U2 to Cake and even The Rolling Stones, Beck and Rod Stewart at some points.  But the strongest comparison I drew upon hearing the full length was to Local H, although the impression changes drastically as the album progresses. It wasn't a truly sonic comparison, it was more of an intangible overall feel. However if you take the harder edge off Local H and mix it with early U2 then you have a peak into what makes Ringside work. The obvious comparison comes from the fact that both bands are duos and you can't ignore their knack for melody making.  Where Local H goes for a rawer rock sound, Ringside take their rock and mix it into a more alt-pop direction but also bring in various influences and the end result is a finely tuned pop rock gem. But it's more in using the unconventional and still ended up with a commercially appealing sound. 

Two elements really stuck out while listening to this album for the first time. One is the soulful vocals that deliver on every track and the second was the range of instrumental influences that included your basic classic alternative and pop rock but also flamenco, funk and some blues undercoating. Every track draws on something different but somehow fit together. 

The big drawback on this album is that the drum tracks sound a bit too artificial. However, despite that, the songs do work on every other level.  I could try and pick some standout tracks but each song has its own merits and will appeal to different people for different reasons. The Beck like CD opener "Struggle" sets the tones for the album with it's unique take on alt-rock but also the hook happy but understated chorus. 

"Cold On Me" is a grab bag of classic rock influences ranging from the Rod Stewart meets Mick Jagger like vocals to the Van Morrison like horns but delivered in a modern alt-rock context. 

"Tired Of Being Sorry" brings in flamenco guitar flavor and unforgettable and powerful chorus. The vocals really shine on this one. 

"Strangerman" goes into a classic alternative direction with the vocals showing shades of Bono meets Jon Crosby (Vast) with a tinge of Morrissey.  

"Trixie" takes things in a little funkier direction and the plaintive quality of the vocals really carry the verses but the lack of hooks drag the song down a bit. 

"Miss You" is a masterful ballad relying on minimalism in the instrumentation that really let the vocals shine, but the artificial drums spoil things a bit as the song picks up, sounding more distracting than helping the song. 

"Dreamboat 730" is a fun mid-tempo alt-pop track with playful vocals and a cool chorus.  The real experimental magic occurs with "Sleep Well Jeff," it's a bit strange at points but is ultimately a really cool song. 

"Talk To Me" harkens back to classic 80s alternative pop with a slight Bowie flavor. Not one of the strongest tracks on the album but it fits nicely into this part of the album. 

"Raining Next Door" is slightly off-tilter alt-pop with sing-song like vocals.  The piano ballad "Criminal" really take things to another level. Another song where the instrumentation is understated and you can really focus on the vocals. It's easy to see this song becoming a favorite for fans. While it won't go down as one of the best ballads in rock history it is one of the better efforts in that arena over the past decade.  

The final track "Jackie" has its charms with the experimental alternative shadings but doesn't close the album out on the strongest note possible, however the song does grow on you with subsequent listens and the genius of the track become more and more apparent the more you hear it. 

All in all, Ringside has accomplished quite a bit with this debut album. They've crafted an interesting and commercially appealing collection of songs that do stand apart from the mind numbing copy-cat songs you hear on radio at the moment. While the band isn't revolutionary in any respect, they do offer a breath of fresh air in the year 2005 and provide us with a cool album full of memorable songs. And let's be honest, that doesn't happen too often in this day and age.  

Overall, the band does have the makings of superstars. This album gives us the first glimpse at that and if they continue to build upon this foundation and again if the record company plays their cards right that just may just come to pass. Even if it doesn't breakout into the mainstream, if you are a fan of the more melodic focused alternative rock, then you should definitely give Ringside a listen.  

Ringside - Ringside
Label: Geffen
Cold On Me
Tired Of Being Sorry
Miss You
Dreamboat 30
Sleep Well, Jeff
Talk To Me
Raining Next Door

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