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Chasing the Mad Rabbit

Release Date: 1997
Record label: J-Bird
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.


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by: mark feldman

It used to be that rock and pop on independent labels was less over-produced than on major labels and tended to embrace the do-it-yourself garage band aesthetic. But that style began to appear on major labels in the past decade, so now we get bands like Bliss who are "alternative" by actually being accomplished musicians and owing more of their sound to Journey than to the Sex Pistols.

This has the potential to be interesting, but Bliss don't muster up enough genuine energy to pull it off. For one thing, vocalist Matt Well (if he were given the nickname "come" he would be "welcome mat" backwards!) has an identity crisis, masquerading alternately as Steve Perry, Eddie Vedder and Ozzy Osbourne whenever appropriate. One could argue that he is versatile, but in reality he just sounds confused. Perhaps he could focus a bit better were he given better material to sing. You try to get excited about songs whose climaxes are "I nearly died," "I'm sick, sick of you," "it's just another day of sorrow" and "Don't put that bullet in your head." Not to mention yet another freedom of speech anthem, elegantly titled "Little Bitches." What decade is this?

But Bliss is essentially the brainchild of songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Michael Trapp, and we shouldn't let him off easy. He does do everything on this album but sing, which is impressive, and he can certainly write a decent rock hook, which is also impressive. The problem is that it's impressive for a human being, but when compared to other rock songwriters and multi-instrumentalists, it's just not that impressive anymore. A few songs here are passable - "Karmic Wheel" is a snappy power-pop number, "Hope" and "Insides Out" are nice ballads, "Nevermind" and "Something Broken" take an occasional stab at pretty harmonies, and "Too Shy" (not a Kajagoogoo cover) even has a funky bass line. But a few passable songs do not an album make. The closing number, "Rejoice," sums up everything that's wrong with "Chasing the Mad Rabbit" - an attempt to synthesize the sound of several classic rock elements without any of the feeling behind them. The mechanized drum machine and Well's 'futuristic' techno-screeches are only icing on the cake. By the end of it, we can all rejoice indeed. The liner notes on this CD thank John Lennon for his "initial inspiration," but this is exactly the sort of soulless corporate product that would have made Lennon gag.