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CRITERIA "When We Break" Saddle Creek

The sense of confinement on
The sense of confinement on "When We Break" is crucial to Criteria. (By Tony Bonacci)

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Friday, January 20, 2006

CRITERIA"When We Break"Saddle Creek

"I'M STUCK in the basement world," announces the first line of "Prevent the World," the song that opens Criteria's bristling second album, "When We Break." That sense of confinement underlies everything this Omaha quartet band does. The music is always threatening to soar yet takes its urgency from its sense of being hemmed in. If singer-guitarist Stephen Pedersen ever broke out of the basement, he would probably lose the tension that's crucial to his group's appeal.

This push-pull style, of course, is not unfamiliar. Criteria, whose frontman is both a lawyer and a former member of Cursive, sounds like a lot of other bands, including some notable ones that used to record for Washington's Dischord.

Such ploys as the call-and-response vocals of "Good Luck" -- which demand "I'm out of luck/Are you the same way?" -- and the whisper-to-a-shout dynamics are a lot emo-punk, a little bit arena-rock. Punk purists may object, but this combo does a pretty good job of conjuring Pedersen's feelings of stuck-ness.

-- Mark Jenkins

Appearing Sunday at Warehouse Next Door.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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