less potent kryptonite
Tum It Upside Down (Epic)
Spin Doctors

By Ray Rizzo

Earlier this year, guitarist Erik Schenkman said that when preparing material for their latest album, the Spin Doctors didn't try to write another smash like "Two Princes," a song that epitomized the band's tight, radio-friendly work on 1991's Pocket Full of Kryptonite. Unfortunately, it's the lack of such smart craftsmanship that hurts much of Turn It Upside Down. In the years since Kryptonite, the Spin Doctors have hit a niche as a touring band and Turn seems to be an attempt to muscle their stage bravado into the studio with no regard for the environment.

The work between the trio of Schenkman, drummer Aaron Comess and bassist Mark White, while always tight, seems to miss its mark as often as it works: They have the ability to create the breezy groove to "Someday All This Will Be Road" and yet offer an entirely uninventive approach to the "Biscuit Head" riff. The arrangements often lack direction, giving songs such as "Hungry Hamed's" and "Big Fat Funky Booty" a feeling of redundancy, making a great idea boring.

Despite Schenkman's explanation, (if it wasn't a disclaimer), Turn has some solid Spin Doctors jam: once again they dip into Steve Miller Land with "You Let Your Heart Go Too Fast." "At This Hour" and the fiery "Bags of Dirt" bite like cutouts from the Kryptonite sessions and "Cleopatra's Cat," clearly the most notable cut, has the lovable Chris Barron scat-singing through yet another tale of outrageous romance with Shakespearean touches. Though he fails to live up to his brilliant, inventive vocal performances of his past, Barron contributes some fine songwriting with the acoustic-driven "Laraby's Gang."

The question that is best decided by the listener is whether Turn is a digression for the group or an aggressive effort to paint the true colors of the Spin Doctors. The path they are taking is not fresh by any means, but it will serve them well ... for now. Another album or two of this will get old.