New Radicals Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too
HOW LONG HAS it been since a pop songwriter had enough zest and guts to savor life? Gregg Alexander--code name: New Radicals--writes euphoric tunes. Not the zirconium-faux euphoria of Disney happy endings, New Age spiritualism, or Gen-Y megastar one-upmanship, but songs with guitars hot-wired to the pineal gland, and lyrics that dance with the skeletons in your closet.
Alexander, a middle-class kid from tony Grosse Pointe, Mich., has got "the dreamer's disease," a condition that flips the bird to irony, smarm, and cynicism over the course of a dozen drive-by ditties. On "You Get What You Give," the year's best pop song, he tells 14-year-old outcasts to hold on to the power of music for dear life, and offers up this cathartic credo: "Frienemies/Who when you're down ain't your friend/Every night/We smash their Mercedes Benz." And on "Jehovah Made This Whole Joint for You"--simultaneously a paean to his wacky, religious mother and a send-up of anachronistic hippies--he throws Dwight Twilley's "Twilley Don't Mind" and The Who's "I Can See for Miles" into a mix that's as giddy as a hot-air balloon full of nitrous oxide.
Alexander's joy is all the more palpable because it's clear he has come through the wringer. He knows that any love gone wrong--be it a puppy infatuation or a stunted soul-mating--can gnaw your insides like a parasite. His obsessive emotions dovetail with his endearing lyricism on "Crying Like a Church on Monday," and "Someday We'll Know," where we find him "speeding by the place I met you/For the 97th time tonight." Ultimately, Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too is a survivor's song full of heart and happy feet that's tailor-made for smart radio stations--wherever those may be.
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