Dust (Epic)
Screaming Trees

By Bob Bahr

By now, you've probably heard the single "All I Know" from this album. Well, what did you think? If you liked it, you can stop reading this review. If you thought it borrowed a bit too obviously from certain sources, then you're hearing it the same way I am.

That cut, which cribs from the Beatles' "I Am the Walrus" for its intro and propulsive motion and Status Quo's "Pictures of Matchstick Men" for its chord progression, is probably the worst example of the, er, familiarity of this album. But there are other instances on virtually every cut.

Mark Lanegan's vocals are the cleanest they have ever been, and what is revealed? Underneath the layers of whiskey and cigarettes, a Bono/Jim Kerr-like croon shines through like a pop artifact. This is good news? If one had never heard Screaming Trees before, this psychedelic, shamelessly pop album would be much easier to take.

Easier, but still not easy. "Dying Days," with its tired riffs and U2 inflections, is hard to love. "Gospel Plow's" Eastern touches (think a low-grade "Within Without You") are amusing, though they are surely not meant to tickle the funnybone. Survey the damage: a snippet of Steppenwolf, a crib from the Beatles, a U2 vibe, a Beatles lift, a Zep sensibility, a Beatles theft -- it's more than one can take.

There are brief respites. "Traveler" beautifully evokes Lanegan's acoustic solo past and -- luckily -- weds it to a good song that can withstand the weight of Beatlesque mellotron embellishments. In the guilty pleasure department, "Make My Mind" is the lone survivor on Dust, with its memorable melody in the verse, lilting movement in the bridge, and catchy chorus. The guitars rock out too, but that only makes it difficult to imagine how the song could be pulled off live. Would Lanegan steadily sing these fragile falsetto parts while the heavyweight Conner brothers thrash away behind him on guitars?

The Black Crowes? Their derivative ways make me sleepy. Lenny Kravitz? Retro gone bad, in my eyes. I'm sadly looking at Screaming Trees, a band that posted one of the best modern rock songs in "Nearly Lost You," and I'm bidding them adieu as they descend into common rock thievery. It was nice knowing you, guys.