Evenout's "Drown Inside" is one of those rock debuts that sounds more like a sampler than a fully realized album, a half-hour or so of music designed to attract a broad following and wedge a few doors open at radio stations across the country. "Check this out" is written all over it.
The Washington-based quartet opens with a hard-rock bang and closes with an acoustic guitar ballad, adroitly mixing things up on the remaining five tracks. Lead singer Maurice Mangum is versatile enough to handle the sharp shifts in dynamics without sounding as if he's overreaching. His job, though, isn't made any easier by the mostly routine quality of songwriting. He's at his best when the mood is amped and the lyrics are pointed -- on the opening salvos "Controller" and "Look Back," for example. The latter boasts a killer chorus and shimmering guitar work, not unlike the CD's most appealing love song, "Save Tomorrow," and the languid blues "Waiting." Still, Mangum's vocal gifts can't compensate for a lyric as tiresome as "Toxic," which sports an unintentionally ironic refrain: "And I can't take it anymore / Your depression / I can't fake it anymore." Miscues aside, the singer and his bandmates -- guitarist Jason Browning, bassist Van Swanson and drummer Doug Pagliaro -- ultimately achieve what they apparently set out to do: create a good first impression.
-- Mike Joyce
Appearing Friday at Iota.