Indigo Girls: Come On Now Social

Indigo Girls: Come On Now Social

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Indigo Girls

Album: Come On Now Social
Label: Epic

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After more than a decade of relative stardom, Emily Saliers and Amy Ray aren't about to mess with their formula: Divided about evenly between strident, rough-edged, down-home attitude (songs sung by Ray) and soft, wispy, lilting balladry (songs sung by Saliers), Indigo Girls' albums have gotten awfully predictable. What's missing from the last few, including Come On Now Social, are great singles, songs hooky enough to transcend their inherent preachiness ("Hammer And A Nail") and/or pretension ("Closer To Fine"). Without those standouts, Come On Now Social is mostly memorable for its moments of head-slapping earnestness ("Love's been planted / and we're checkin' out the yield," from "Peace Tonight"), finger-wagging proselytizing ("Faye Tucker"), and unconvincing character sketches ("Cold Beer And Remote Control"). The rest is mildly engaging and almost invariably forgettable. Paula Cole is another successful singer whose music is either catchy and affecting or monumentally aggravating: "I Don't Want To Wait" was nice before it was played into the ground on the radio and in Dawson's Creek ads, but "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?" is probably the most irritating pop single since the height of 4 Non Blondes. After the heavily Grammy-nominated, platinum-selling success of the somewhat overrated This Fire, Cole faces higher expectations than Ray or Saliers have felt in ages, and, as anyone who's seen her interviewed will tell you, she's already inclined to take herself far too seriously, a tendency that doesn't mix well with success. (Just ask Fiona Apple, whose forthcoming album has a 90-word title.) There are signs of I-am-a-brilliant-artist syndrome on Amen., her jazzy, languid follow-up, including dopey references to O.J., Kevorkian, and Malcolm X (on the title track) and a cheesy, pitter-patter rap (on the eight-minute "Rhythm Of Life"). With nine songs stretched out over 51 minutes, Amen. is the least commercial of her three records; other than "I Believe In Love" and maybe "Be Somebody," it provides limited opportunities for tie-ins on WB commercials. But it's ultimately pleasant at its best and ponderous at its worst, and its songs don't have nearly as much to say as Cole seems to think they do. Until her pedestrian lyrical skills match her impressive ego and vocal range, she'll be all about unfulfilled potential, a resource Indigo Girls tapped out several albums ago.

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