NEW ORDER bassist Peter Hook offers Revenge as a rougher, tougher alternative to his better-known band, currently on sabbatical, but the pickup trio's "One True Passion" sounds more like a summer fill-in.
Though not quite so elegant as New Order -- as such song titles as "Fag Hag" and "Surf Nazi" suggest -- the sound is quite similar: discreet synth washes and riffs, minor-key melodies and vocals and pounding electronic percussion. The album's also about as reliable as an order of Order: The lead-off single, "Pineapple Face," is agreeably propulsive, but the other songs only seem to aspire to various degrees of filler-dom.
Arty black-clad Aussie punk-rockers, the Died Pretty are still trying to figure out what got damaged in transport when their Patti Smith albums were shipped down under. This quintet has the pose down cold, but on "Every Brilliant Eye" the music remains at best hit or miss. Maybe the problem is that the Pretty is really a trad-rock band at heart; the opening "Sight Unseen" has a twinge of Midnight Oil bombast and "True Fools Fall," the album's most striking melody, is just a heartbeat away from being a roots-rocker.
Ex-Rain Parader David Roback has been seeking the perfect marriage of raw guitar and ethereal soprano ever since he and some other members of L.A.'s "Paisley Underground" (notably Bangle Suzanna Hoffs) put together the one-shot "Rainy Day" album, which redid such revealing numbers as Nico's "Chelsea Girl" version of Dylan's "I'll Keep It With Mine." Roback's latest attempt is Mazzy Star, with vocalist Hope Sandoval replacing Kendra Smith, the chanteuse of his previous band, Opal.
On the Stars' debut album, "She Hangs Brightly," Roback demonstrates a newfound interest in country music, but still shines brightest when the band is copping riffs from Nico and her associates, John Cale, Lou Reed and "Chelsea Girl" string arranger Larry Fallon. "Blue Flower" salutes Reed's "I'll Be Your Mirror," while "Before I Sleep" is obviously derived from none other than Fallon's arrangement of "I'll Keep It With Mine."