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Thirteen (Ear Tonic)

With a fairly predictable proto-metal howl, Krumble comes across on Thirteen as guitar-reliant racket that ultimately winds up lurching toward overblown progressive-rock territory. The band's got bombastic guitar riffs, crunching, monstrous drumbeats, and trudging rhythms that any workmanlike hard-rock leaning band worth its weight in black T-shirts should have. But it really doesn't have any hooks. And without that sense of melody, it's just another band buzzing away at nothingness. At times it seems Krumble could hit a stride or find a niche just noodling -- jam-band style -- and that's OK, too. But the songs on Thirteen are neither unique nor inventive; they're just numbingly competent and inoffensive.

The record does, however, become a little tougher to swallow when the emasculated vocals of Theresa Carroll stray and counterpoint the constantly overactive music. While the band flails away with its heavy highwire act, Carroll comes on with a droll velvety coo that sounds as unwelcome as the noise from someone else's car stereo. On cuts such as "Wall of Soul," "Star," and the thoroughly dated "Niko," the results are tangibly retro. The latter is a far-from-convincing (and likely unintentional) Heart imitation, and the whole affair might be a misguided stab at PJ Harvey. That's not to say that Carroll can't belt it out with the best of them; it's just that the band/vocal coupling on Thirteen becomes so utterly uncomfortable that the very best moment on the disc, a cut titled "Crosscurrent," is an instrumental.

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