Novelty (self-released)

A four-piece from Akron, Emanon -- singer Kimberly Jones, guitarist Mark Newingham, bassist Eric Heinbuch, and drummer Robert Ruman -- shouldn't be confused with Eminem, the homophobic Detroit rapper who's garnered four Grammy nominations and has knee-jerk liberals everywhere decrying the merit of his accolades. No, Emanon is a hard rock outfit that's the opposite of Eminem in every way. It's faceless alt-rock, devoid of slurs and violent images. In fact, a little vitriol would do the band some good.

Recorded and mixed by Dave Sacchini and Matt Lyndsay at Moon Dog Studios in Kent, Novelty isn't heavy enough to be considered metal and isn't quiet enough to work as adult alternative. Singer Jones seems to think she's Pat Benatar or Natalie Merchant, capable of singing at operatic levels. But instead of sounding powerful, her voice comes off as shrill, piercing, and tuneless. Jones oversings everything, rendering the different emotions she expresses ineffective. In the liner notes, which feature photos from live performances, she's wearing either short skirts or leather pants, as if to suggest her good looks somehow compensate for the limitations of voice. The fact that songs such as "Where's My Nirvana?" and "Get to the Point" rely upon generic guitar riffs doesn't help matters. The funky "Ugly" represents a welcome change of pace, with its plodding bass line and distorted vocals, and "Purple Jesus" shows off the band's chops, albeit in a rather pretentious prog-rock kinda way. But the bad outweighs the good here, giving the warning on the album cover -- "Caution: choking hazard" -- an unintended irony.