PAT MCGEE BAND
Easier to admire than enjoy or recommend, "Save Me" is the sort of modern rock album that's more notable for its production punch than its personality. The aim is clear: a big sound in which acoustic intros and interludes give way to power-chord surges, soaring choruses and the occasional string-swept weave. The results are clear, too: smartly produced, radio-geared rock that sounds anonymous more often than not.
A lot of hapless souls are gathered here -- characters who've lost their faith, lovers and bearings, sometimes all in one swift blow. Pat McGee is strong enough a singer to carry the weight of their sorrows. But as the sad tales and yearning emotions begin to accumulate on "You and I," "Now," "At It Again" and other cuts, his voice keeps returning to the same distressed pitch, and one tune begins to blur into another. Small wonder that the sunny "Annabel," a love song that surfaces midway through the disc -- and not a moment too soon, as it turns out -- sounds so engagingly fresh and uncomplicated.
McGee's songcraft is never in question. There are a lot of solid melodies on "Save Me," along with a string of surefire choruses. What's more, McGee and his bandmates -- guitarist Brian Fechino, bassist John Small, percussionist Chardy McEwan and drummer Chris Williams -- are no slouches when it comes to devising multilayered tracks. Yet a bunch of woeful and unremarkable lyrics take a big toll, so much so that by the time McGee reaches the final cut and delivers the line, "It's time for me to move on / You won't believe me anyway," one can't help but think he's right on both counts.
-- Mike Joyce
Appearing Saturday at the 9:30 club. * To hear a free Sound Bite from the Pat McGee Band, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8127. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)