AQUALUNG "Strange and Beautiful" Red Ink/Columbia

Friday, May 6, 2005

AQUALUNG"Strange and Beautiful"Red Ink/Columbia

In titling his U.S. debut "Strange and Beautiful," Aqualung (aka Matt Hales) attempted to write his own capsule review. For anyone who has heard Coldplay and Keane, however, a more accurate tag would be "Ordinary and Kind of Pretty." Keyboard-based ballads with discreet trip-hop underpinning, such yearning numbers as "If I Fall" and "Brighter Than Sunshine" are pleasant enough. But the British singer-songwriter's title-tune vow to "put a spell on you" could apply only to listeners who are unusually predisposed to hypnosis.

If Aqualung's music is less than distinctive, his lyrics are downright redundant. The album's myriad references to falling and mesmerizing all refer to love, and the ones to breaking and wounding invariably concern the human heart. Unembarrassed by lazy rhymes, Hales warbles such couplets as "I never understood before / I never knew what love was for" and "Goes to show /You never really know." On the contrary, this album shows that you can really know, at least about unimaginative romantic song-poets. Love may be -- as Aqualung sings -- brighter than sunshine, but he isn't.

-- Mark Jenkins

Appearing Monday at the 9:30 club with Cary Brothers. ยท To hear a free Sound Bite from Aqualung, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8102. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)

© 2005 The Washington Post Company