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Sameness Dampens Catchiness : Psychic Rain: "World Ironic"; Greico (** 1/2)

August 29, 1996|MIKE BOEHM

Nevermind the title--Psychic Rain's second CD is about as direct a piece of work as you can find.

The music sticks to the traditional verities. This is straight-up, catchy, guitar-based pop-rock with a bit of jangle and a bit of complementary muscle balancing just about every track.

Singer Greg Stoddard comes across with unflagging, reedy-voiced emotion; his mates sing sharp harmonies in support, and, to add a special bit of spice, we get lead guitarist Brian Stewart's unerring knack for concise, grabbing solos in the vein of Tom Petty's sidekick, Mike Campbell.

Taken a song or two at a time, Psychic Rain is striking, especially on the dramatic "Without a Sound." But over the course of the CD's nine songs, sameness sets in, even if what's being repeated is pretty flavorful. While Stoddard, the main songwriter, never sounds affected or overwrought, he does fall into something of a rut with a delivery that's perpetually on the verge of a sob.

Most of his songs deal with collapsing relationships and the self-examination that comes with them.

"Heaven While She Waits" portrays a woman's suicide leap and its effect on the observer, and "Wrong" is a snapshot of a small boy learning to cope with a disability and the cruelties other kids inflict because he's different. But nothing in the music differentiates these two from the musings on love lost.

Because Psychic Rain is selling more than raw energy, it needs to experiment more, go for a mix of styles and moods that would let it produce an album that rises and falls and progresses like a journey.

Stoddard could do more with his lyrics--unremarkable, declarative snippets that don't probe for the memorable image or the enriching sound-combination. (There are a few cliches, and one bald clinker, when he sings, "you left in a hurried rush"--as opposed to, say, a leisurely rush?)

We're left with something of a missed opportunity--an enjoyable record from a skilled and spirited band that goes over the same ground stylishly, and thereby fails to involve a listener as fully as it might have with more contrast and imagination.

(For band information, call (310) 943-6074, or visit its Web site: http://www.polyphonic. com/psychic/index.htm

* Psychic Rain opens for Cheap Trick on Friday at the Galaxy Concert Theatre, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana. 8 p.m. $28.50-$30.50. (714) 957-0600.

*

Ratings range from * (poor) to **** (excellent), with *** denoting a solid recommendation.

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