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Angels & Airwaves: I-Empire

Album: I-Empire
Label: Geffen

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Angels And Airwaves frontman Tom DeLonge has a lot in common with R&B egomaniac R. Kelly: No one can discuss Kelly lately without debating whether he takes himself seriously, and ever since DeLonge released his band's overly ambitious debut, 2006's We Don't Need To Whisper, many have wondered the same about him. Yet even those who initially scoffed at the former Blink-182 leader couldn't deny that, like Kelly, the guy can occasionally write one hell of a song. On Whisper, it was the arena-ready single "The Adventure"; on the mostly winning follow-up I-Empire, it's "Everything's Magic," a strummy, Police-like anthem that should blare out of high-school parking lots the world over. "Magic" isn't the sole highlight: "Sirens," an earnest new-wave throwback, may even encourage DeLonge's sternest critics to sing along.

However, much like Whisper, Angels And Airwaves' second album often suffers from DeLonge's indulgent impulses: On "Call To Arms," a sea of U2-indebted guitar lines build to nowhere, while heavy-handed ballads like "Breathe" never earn their space. Maybe all DeLonge really needs in order to make his band's definitive album is something his kindred spirit Kelly, now a filmmaker, has since found value in: a decent editor.