Tony C. and the Truth

This raucous debut from Tony C. and the Truth is everything that labelmate Kid Rock wishes he was: too cool for school (yes, Tony C.'s a dropout), tough as nails and armed with the sort of good-time anthems that make you crave 10 buddies and an old Coors Light Party Ball.

As the story goes, Tony C. even dissed the Kid once, informing him that he was his "new replacement." We can only hope. Tony C. has better songs, more talent and a huge, instantly recognizable singing voice, husky and old-man deep. He sounds like a grizzly bear with a harmonica and a pack-a-day Lucky Strikes habit.

Actually a 27-year-old Mensa member from Upstate New York, Tony C. (last name Cesternino) is determined to boogie on this honky-tonkin' party soundtrack. On the album's first three smoldering cuts -- "Who I Are," "Good Lookin' Out" and "Little Bit More" -- his backing gang, the Truth, ignites a firestorm of bluesy guitars and turntable scratches that resembles AC/DC beating down G. Love.

By mid-album, Tony C.'s softer side appears; "No Pain" is a charismatic, gospel-fueled standout, magnifying his vocals' lovely rough edge. But the most memorable tracks are the guitar bruisers like "Weight of the World," which sounds best blasting in a place where all the pool cues are busted and the bathroom mirror is nothing but tacked-up sheet metal.

There's one possible misstep: the album closer, a steroid-pumped cover of the Beastie Boys' "Fight for Your Right (to Party)." But considering Tony C.'s big, bad voice, nobody's going to mention it to him.

-- Michael Deeds

Tony C. and the Truth are scheduled to appear Friday at the Black Cat.


The Killers

It's been almost 20 years since anyone tried to sound like Duran Duran -- at least on purpose -- but the Killers are taking quite a pounding for doing precisely that. In a summer dominated by gleeful dance rock retreads like Franz Ferdinand, to criticize anyone for such pinpoint poaching seems almost beside the point, especially since the Killers' debut, "Hot Fuss," filches just as liberally from the Smiths, Blur, the Strokes, the Rapture and just about any other act that ever picked up a synthesizer and a can of Final Net.

Like most of their new-new wave compatriots, they only sound British (the Killers, fronted by the improbably named Brandon Flowers, are actually from Las Vegas): While "Hot Fuss" can best be described as club-centric, faux-English art rock, it isn't rock, exactly, nor is it particularly artful. The disc's first half is a whirling mass of droll, mostly irresistible and entirely calculated tracks, any of which could rightfully be a hit single. The second half is pretty dull, populated either by shapeless, chorusless songs that seem barely finished, or by lesser facsimiles of songs from the first half.

The early part of "Hot Fuss" is so good, it's hard to mind that the Killers seem to run out of steam, as well as ideas, somewhere around Song 5. The grand (and grandiose) "All These Things That I've Done" begins as an modest pop track before building to a crashing coda of gospel choirs and thrumming percussion. Though there's 20 minutes and six songs still to go, the Killers, presumably exhausted by their labors, pretty much call it a day right there.

-- Allison Stewart


Chris Robinson & the New Earth Mud

Roots-rocker Chris Robinson, who's never been afraid to look like Ichabod Crane on a week-long bender, has gone super-mellow on his new solo album, and there are two possible reasons for his near-comatose mood. The lanky, shaggy Black Crowes frontman recently had a child with Hollywood starlet (and Goldie Hawn spawn) Kate Hudson. If it's not fatherhood that has chilled him out to such extremes, then perhaps the patron saint of High Times magazine has finally taken his infamous hemp worship one toke over the line.

Whatever the case, "This Magnificent Distance" is a big ol' hippie-dipped space jam, a gauzy 12-song homage to the sprawling '70s output of Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead -- especially the Dead. Except for the apocalyptic fair-warning "40 Days" and a few mid-tempo rumblers, the guitar-washed CD is set at a dreamy, blissed-out pace. It's all very pretty -- but it's also pretty dull.

Not only is Robinson's usual sexy swagger missing, but so are the rollicking hooks that made such Black Crowes hits as "Hard to Handle," "Jealous Again" and "Go Faster" a whole lot of reckless fun. He's over his Rolling Stones obsession, it seems, and the good-time party has been sacrificed for rambling, peacenik poetry.

Such lackluster puddles of prickly guitars and droning keyboards as "Mother of Stone" ("All you children come along / Sing a golden song") and "Like a Tumbleweed in Eden" ("Make me a gift of arrow and quiver / Love me, child of the moon") might seem endless, but they're nothing compared with the endurance test that is "When the Cold Wind Blows at the Dark End of Night" ("We are younger now / Still in a dream"). "This Magnificent Distance" is a long, strange trip that takes for . . . ev . . . er but ultimately goes nowhere.

-- Sean Daly

Tony C. and the Truth: From left, Tobias Ralph, Jason Moscartolo, DJ Prestige, Tony C, Patrick Halley and John Harvey.