There's some Prince in Joe "White" Williams's music, and some Steve Miller Band, and Strangeloves as well; every listener will likely overhear favorite singles here. Smoke (Tigerbeat 6), the Cleveland indie-pop musician's debut, is the sort of album that would sound great in a semi-loud bar without calling too much attention to itself; there's a deftness evident, instrumentally and production-wise, but the effect is that Williams's one-man-band creations seem vaguely—if annoyingly—familiar. Take "New Violence," for instance; compositionally agreeable if monotonous, lyrically ambiguous, and acupuncture-needled with gratuitous neon-synth effects, it comes off like Beck covering a Duran Duran cover of some Ramones b-side. Some time later—as if to underscore some unspoken point about the classics never really dying—the apparently immortal "I Want Candy" is exhumed for a twitchy, agitated electro makeover. (It should be noted that slow jam "In the Club" not only has nothing to do with 50 Cent's "In Tha Club" but also is way more Paisley Park patient than G-G-G-Unit graceless.) Tying it all together—yes, even the title track, which seems to be a cross between calypso and bumpin'-fresh space rock—is Williams's vocal drollery, so Play-Doh malleable and filter-assisted that his delivery shape-shifts into something different for each track. The singer sublimates himself to the song, not the other way 'round, so it's all too simple to tune out whatever he's singing about and just recognize it as another melody-lugging element in the mix, another pale gloss on something you must have heard before, somewhere else, once upon a time. 21+.
Sun., Jan. 20, 9 p.m., 2008
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