Piper Down
(Epixuti Records)

It's not easy writing pop songs. That much can be heard at most any local club where musicians clang through words and notes that have no business in the same police precinct. So it's refreshing to hear a band like Haggis, which, on this eight-song CD, actually comes up with eight honest-to-God songs.

The best of the bunch is "Humming," a nicely constructed rocker that twists rules by employing a melody far more memorable than the chorus. Singer Brian Talenti handles the ride well, as does lead guitarist Tony Burns, who also sings back-up (monosyllabic bassist Moon and drummer Scott McDonald round out the lineup). Another winner, "Make Up," is less a rocker, but every bit as catchy, especially the song's midsection, which shakes loose a mundane syncopated melody and grabs some quick pop joy.

But not all is swell on Piper Down. "Uphill Climb" is an aptly titled effort that tries too hard and takes too long to get nowhere. Talenti's vocals unnecessarily dominate early, then Burns takes too much a step forward at the end. It's not the only time that solo sentiments commandeer the sound. And it's not the only time that Haggis proves it works best when working as one. -- Ted Simons

Earth in Real Audio

Angst-addled vocals. Chunks of heavy guitar chords. Overactive drumming and grinding, talking bass lines. Yes, it's another rhythm-ruled band of upstarts stomping across the horizon, this time out of Glendale high school campuses.

The group, Tolerance, is made up of four teenagers (singer Cory Spotts, guitarist David Dutton, bassist Nate Nash and drummer Adam Boyd) who've already released one album, and now, with this four-song EP, sound more than ready to elbow into the crowded fray of angry young funk-rockers.

Unlike most who throw their amps and Gibsons at the temple of Tool and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tolerance doesn't seem afraid of letting its testosterone get mussed up by softer, less vein-straining sentiments. Indeed, Spotts occasionally comes off as a progeny of pure pop, letting a more plaintive, higher-registered croon take a turn or two before returning to the requisite guttural screams. These Jekyll/Hyde tendencies make for nice dynamics and are best evident on "Pretty," which goes from shades of hard pop to harder rock without missing too many beats. Lyrically, Tolerance doesn't have much to say. But observations on the ambiguity of life's many lessons can wait until someone in the band turns 20. -- Ted Simons


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