Plumb (Essential/Silvertone)

Plumb

Hope (Metro One)

Blackball

By Robert Gruber

These two new bands embody what's good and what's not so good about modern rock. On the good side--Plumb. Given the chance, Plumb's eponymous debut will pitch camp in your brain and declare squatter's rights. Fronted by singer Tiffany Arbuckle, Plumb is a war of nerves between female alterna-folk songwriting and hard-edged techno-industrial production--think Alanis Morrisette meets 808 State.

"Crazy," the album's single, mixes a Bowiesque "Fame"-style guitar riff with a funky bassline. Producer Dan Haseltine (lead singer with Jars of Clay) lends lyrics and backup vocals to "Concrete"; "Pennyless" weaves a sad, lovely melody with Fender Rhodes piano and cello accompaniment, as Arbuckle sings, "She keeps running into herself/Hoping to find somebody else. . . ."; "Send Angels" starts out brooding and atmospheric, then shifts pointlessly into hopped-up electronica mode--a great tune, nonetheless.

On the . . . er, other side -- Blackball. Initially a side project by Precious Death vocalist Christopher Scott, Blackball's excellent first album,Super Heavy Dreamscape was raucous, rhythmic hard rock. WithHope, however, Scott seems to purposely target the crowd that gets into Sublime or 311, employing speedball rapping techniques and cacophonous horns. Nothing wrong with that, I guess -- if you like that sort of thing. Songs like "Downtown" and "All God's Children" have the capacity to grow on a person, given time.

I'm just afraid that, by the time they've grown on me, they will also have grown out of style. While I don't deny the hard work and sincerity of Blackball's intentions,Hope has the all-too-temporary feel of fast food Chinese -- twenty minutes into it, you'll be hungry again....for something else.