By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
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.