North Hollywood Shootout
Thu, Aug 28, 2008 (midnight)
Does the hook bring you back? After 20-plus years, Blues Traveler's harmonica-heavy, jam-friendly meanderings remain stubbornly lodged between the edge of relevance and the breezier wilds of classically trained hippiedom, even if the larger metaphoric hook in question may never again be as sharp or gleaming as it was during John Popper & Co.'s "Run-Around"-producing, Grammy-winning heyday. It's no surprise, then, that North Hollywood Shootout follows in a post-Four succession of comparatively bland efforts that hesitate to stray from the band's time-tested, go-to formulas.
Among the 10 tracks are the standard sing-along road tunes ("You, Me and Everything"), the ballads ("Love Does," "What Remains") and the more aggressive "message" songs ("The Beacons" addresses technology run rampant; "How You Remember It," the passage of time). And then there's closer "Free Willis (Ruminations From Behind Uncle Bob's Machine Shop)," a lo-fi, spoken-word screed featuring existential dread expelled from the gullet of one Bruce Willis.
Forget relying on the same old (see the generic, all-over-the-map "Orange in the Sun")—more polarizing, daring departures in the same vein as "Willis" are what the Travelers ought add to their increasingly unimaginative oeuvre. On that you can rely.
The bottom line: *1/2