where's the beef?

Cracked Rear View (Atlantic)

Hootie.& the Blowfish

By Mark Clark

Some critics have pegged South Carolina's Hootie & the Blowfish as the Next Big Thing. But the band's latest, Cracked Rear View, sounds more like the Same Old Thing.

It's easy to understand some observers' enthusiasm for the group. Hootie & the Blowfish play the kind of old-fashioned, straight-ahead rock 'n' roll that's become a rarity nowadays. They are the brethren of the Black Crowes, stylistic sons of Rolling Stones, with roots back to Chuck Berry. Plus, their music has a warm, distinctly southern folksiness.

For a few tracks, that's all very refreshing. "Hannah Jane" is a top-drawer rocker. "Hold My Hand," the album's lead single, has an infectious, Smithereens-esque refrain and a powerful backup vocals. "Let Her Cry" is a decent ballad, weakened by lyrical cliches.

In the end, it's the band's penchant for trite lyrics — tears always seem to be "falling down like rain," for example — that does this record in. Either this group prefers to take the easy way out and speak in blues-rock shorthand, or it has nothing original to say. Whichever way, it makes for dull listening. By the time this disc was over I was already channel-surfing, in search of Warner Brothers cartoons on cable.

You know in one where Bugs and Elmer stage a Wagnerian opera, Elmer sings, "Kill da wabbit, kill da wabbit." Now THERE'S a song. Have you seen the one based on "The Barber of Seville?" Or the one where Bugs annoys the opera singer while he's trying to rehearse? Classic!

I guess I'm through with Hootie & the Blowfish now. Sorry. It's hard to keep your mind on this album for very long.