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Taste the Difference (Latticesphere)

In the pantheon of guilty pleasures, Snack-n-Cakes' debut is right up there with late-night Cinemax and passing gas in the bathtub. This band is a lot like the junk food from which it takes its name: infectious, candied-to-the-core, and prone to go from savory to stomach-turning quickly.

Taste the Difference starts out as a sticky pop-metal confection. On "All We Are," frontman Russ Pasquale sings, with the nasal impudence of NOFX's Fat Mike, over strapping guitars that climax into a pure Velveeta chorus. "Radio Revolution" is a meaty, mid-paced keeper, even if it met its expiration date sometime in 1987. "Ted" is a dumb, delirious ode to bed-hopping, with a chorus as big as Pasquale's boasting. The band members complement their sound by dressing in delivery-guy jumpsuits, making them kind of like a happy Slipknot, pimping saccharin instead of Satan.

Later on, Snack-n-Cakes get serious, and things begin to fall apart. "Cryings Over" is a sappy, sub-Nelson power ballad that introduces a run of four similarly cloying tunes with truly horrendous lyrics. "When I look into your eyes, I see flower petals blooming on a moonlit night," Pasquale moans on "American Girl," and it's hard to tell if he's being earnest or tongue-in-cheek. The same problem dogs much of this disc: It's not always clear how much of their inherent goofiness comes with a knowing wink. But because we like a good Twinkie as much as the next guy, we'll give 'em the benefit of the doubt and chalk Taste the Difference up to self-indulgent fun, to be enjoyed alongside Young Lady Chatterley and blowing bubbles in bathwater.

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