This “group” is essentially singer-songwriter John Ondrasik and a rotating crop of musicians. No depressing alt-anything, Ondrasik uses a palette of piano, Hammond organ, and acoustic guitar atop a canvas of supporting players to paint a portrait of life in Anytown, USA that should strike a chord with wistful dreamers everywhere.
Possessed of a voice that resembles Dave Matthews and Angie Aparo, Ondrasik’s songs are closer to the romantic Elton John-inspired melodies of the latter, especially on the gorgeous ballad, “Superman”. On this tune and elsewhere, he reveals a knack for getting inside the skull of his subject—The Man Of Steel, in this case—in a way that others (The Spin Doctors, 3 Doors Down) never have.
The title track is an indictment of indifference, as he sings, “I used to get annoyed at the fire and the flag, now it just seems old to me”, but his refusal to accept that status quo state of mind is as rousing as the underlying music, an approximation of the kind of post-Springsteen rock that the Wallflowers and Train have perfected.
“Jainy”, is an unsettling piano ballad that bears some resemblance to Ben Folds, “Brick”. Although it is less certain what the narrator is relating, the sense of loss and longing, regret and resignation, is just as strong. An expressive vocalist, Ondrasik is closer to the octave-leaping falsetto of Angie Aparo than the deadpan Folds, and his involved delivery is a large part of his charm.
Despite a sometimes too close similarity to pop icon Dave Matthews, Ondrasik manages to transcend that easy comparison with the kind of lushly arranged songs that should earn him the tougher distinction as the heir apparent to the pop smarts and emotional resonance of a young Elton John.
// Notes from the Road
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