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Michael Carpenter
Not Lame Records

Normally, when I hear high, crisp, clean vocals, bright guitar licks and unfettered pop music cranked up, I can flail around a room like a moshed-up madman with the best of them, never caring where a familiar riff came from or what inspired a certain lyrical "train of thought". Often, I'll admire a particular artist for their choice of artist's to imitate. I especially love a humorous application of some well-known riff. All the while, keeping in mind, that some imitation is not as subtle as other imitation. Imitation IS the highest form of flattery and "everyone's doing it". There is plenty of clean, clear, actually well produced pop rock on this album. Unfortunately, Michael Carpenter borrows a bit too heavily from those Beach Bums (he even does a cover of "You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone") and that bug group, the Beatles.

In advertising, there's something called "differentiation" of products, when a company might be selling, letís say, soap. The challenge for the marketing team is to find a niche for their product. Realize that it's just soap, product that appears on (most) every bathroom counter in America, and it presents quite a marketing challenge. The question is how will they "distance" their product from the other "like choices" on the supermarket shelf? This is where "Hopefulness" loses hope and misses the point of making an album in the first place. (Unless of course, as rumor would have it, this is a theme album based on Michaelís relationship and ensuing marriage and is intended as a musical celebration of that union. And, by the way, how sweet, congrats.) Michael Carpenter does nothing on this disk to "differentiate" his product. As hard as it may be...Michael...bring your hands down...slowly...step away from the Revolver.

With lines like I'm feeling something, what it is though, I don't know or Is this love I'm feeling?, is my heart revealin'? Ė whoa...careful not to dig too deep for a NEW way to express one's emotional fountain of angst! I mean, how many times have we heard that line and subsequent delivery? (I might have glossed over the line with the word "revealin'" but to shorten "revealing" to "revealin' just for the sake of prose, well, that's going just too damn far! I cannot, with a clear conscience, let THAT go...)

There's a very fine line in Pop Music that teeters between new and used. Borrow the best, invent the rest. Everyone borrows, they just do it in a more "clandestine" way than is offered on this album. With this "POPPY" of an approach, there has to be invention, but I don't hear it. Let's just say that this album does nothing to advance the genre. Good Pop DOES reflect what's gone on before it. But this stuff is "so reflective" that it's hard to wrap any love around it. (With all due respect to the lovely MRS. Carpenter's opinion and all the "wonderfulness" I'm sure she finds here...)

The overall feeling one gets is that it might be best for Mr. Carpenter to lock himself in a basement for a couple years and listen to nothing but John Coltrane. (Might I suggest Giant Steps-- 1959 Rhino Records.) Carpenter may be a very talented songwriter who obviously knows how to work in the studio. But all the slick, well done production can't stop me from thinking, "who's he imitating now?" And all that "retrospection" becomes a bothersome fly buzzing around throughout this disk.

On a positive note, Michael Carpenter has an interesting voice, and command of it. The mix is tight, and for what it is, it shows a potential beyond what perhaps the first listen will inspire. I was going to complement track eight, "You Won't See" on it's originality, but then it started sounding like Tom Petty. That track was followed by a lot of "Faith" in Joe Walsh, and nearly a direct spin-off of the "Hot Blooded" intro riff, had Joe sat in with Foreigner and done the studio work (drunk of course). Perhaps the strongest tune on the disk (the hidden track number 12...triiiiicky...) IS the REAL cover song, a nice, simply understated application of country twang and blues rock on Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World ". I guess in many ways, some of the tunes would be memorable, kind of, well, memorable in a "Tomorrow Never Knows" sort of way...

I guess it wasn't that much of a surprise then, that five months after "Hopefulness" came out, Carpenter released an album called "Songs' Of Other People". Now THAT'S what I'm talking about, honesty in music! This is the kind of honesty that any great relationship builds its foundation on. Good luck with the whole "marriage thing" you guys! Maybe the next release should just be, you know, just between "family and friends." Keep it real!


Track Listing:

  1. Kailee Anne
  2. Hopefulness
  3. Believes Again
  4. Is This Love I'm Feeling?
  5. Love So Strong
  6. Since I Found You
  7. Someday
  8. You Won't See
  9. Faith
  10. Never Be Alone
  11. You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone
  12. Wonderful World (pretend this one's hidden)

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