by Carey Murphy and Joel Smith & r & Bo Bice & lt;a href= & quot; & amp;offerid=78941 & amp;type=3 & amp;subid=0 & amp;tmpid=1826 & amp; & quot; & The Real Thing & lt;/a & * & r & This album is not necessarily the real anything. But it absolutely is utter crap. Yet another fiasco and musical travesty comes to the general consumer thanks to American Idol (though I do like Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone," and I don't know why). Bo Bice might have been able to seduce many voters (read: 10- to 13-year-old girls) with his looks, but his voice is sheer terror. And the songs on The Real Thing are no showcase for it.

The title track is a pedestrian paean to the complex "good thing" that Bice knows is love. "U Make Me Better" -- what is it with these American Idol kids and their unwillingness or inability to use standard English? -- is a trite ode to the difficulties of living once love is lost. Boring. Real boring.

Hearing this album once is definitely enough. This is not the advertised Southern rock. Bice wants to use his regional birthright as a backdoor to credibility, but I'm not buying it. -- Carey Murphy

Crystal Skulls & lt;a href= & quot; & amp;offerid=78941 & amp;type=3 & amp;subid=0 & amp;tmpid=1826 & amp; & quot; & Blocked Numbers & lt;/a & *** & r & I really wanted to like this record. I've been listening to the single, "No Room for Change," for months. And I love it. With a smooth, minor-key jerk like the Police doing lounge music, it sounds so retro that it's fresh. Frontman Christian Wargo's voice is assured, syrupy. Tinny guitars and a kind of second-line drum beat hack apart the rhythm, then reassemble it. The whole thing gels like a really nice acid trip. You can't help but dance like an epileptic.

But then there's the rest of the album. Wargo's voice is assured, syrupy. It's got that Police-y minor-key jerk, those tinny guitars. They add some '70s piano here, a banjo there, but all the songs start to blend into each other. There are no surprises.

That doesn't mean the band's no good. They are, especially on the aforementioned single and "Locked Down." But the formula relegates the record as a whole, unfortunately, to easy-listening background music. -- Joel Smith

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