By Bob McMahon
By Allison Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By Carolina de Busto
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
The In? plays a mish-mash of musical styles that sounds tailor-made for the local barroom. There are traces of electric blues, some ramped-up Americana, a little touch of dub and a whole lot of modern rock. Songwriting duties for the twelve songs on An American Cocktail are split down the middle between guitarist Nathan Graves and bassist Dan Huck. Graves favors a more streamlined, pop-friendly approach (such as the light funk in "Ize"), while Huck's songs often tread in a bluesier vein, as on the roadhouse stomp of an opener "So Cold." Hornsman Chris Wilson is the rare rock & roll saxophonist who knows his role: He sticks mostly to the background with bottom-heavy tenor and baritone sax lines and steps forward at the right times. His double-tracked solo on "Who Asked You" would have fit right in on Billy Joel's 52nd Street (and that's high praise).
As musicians, the four guys in the In? are tight and inventive; as singers and lyricists, Graves and Huck are passable and sometimes charming, but neither has the presence to carry this album. It may be a feature of the form — no one looks for lyrical transcendence in a foot-stomping barroom basher — but you can hear them reaching for it on many of the tracks. "I.O.U." is an atmospheric, slightly self-loathing love song that is based around a circular bass guitar pattern before it launches into a mid-tempo rocker. Too bad — the Morphine-like intro is one of the bright spots on the disc. Too often, the band attempts to condense their blues-and-soul leanings into generic modern rock — and the last thing this city needs is another generic modern-rock band.
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