"LIKE A ROCK." Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band. Capitol.

At the start of the slow, sad "The Ring," the scene is set as a young couple ties the knot amid the usual promises of undying love and a better life somewhere else. You know that these naive dreams won't come true by the end of the tune, because it's a Bob Seger song, after all, and he's still up to what he often does best: crooning nostalgic and melancholic ballads of loss, regret and disillusionment.

Someday, Seger ought to shift modes and write a song about someone whose dreams do come to fruition but whose success creates expectations that can't be lived up to later. It could be an autobiographical song, given the sense of coasting that pervades "Like a Rock," a workmanlike letdown that wasn't worth the 3 1/2-year wait for this album.

It's all well-meaning stuff, and of all the rock stars you'd most like to share a beer with, Bob's still near the top of the list. He's also the kind of guy you wish would stop at one beer, before he starts rambling on about the good old days, because the personal revelations aren't all that revealing anymore.

If he was just entering his introspective stage, songs like the title track ("20 years--I sit and I wonder sometimes where they've gone") and "Somewhere Tonight" might carry a little more crackle and bite. But it's been a decade since he mourned an old affair in "Night Moves," and six years since he yearned for the times when he was running "Against the Wind." As they say, nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

The LP gets off to an intriguing start with "American Storm," an anti-drug anthem so artfully done you'd never guess it was an anti-drug anthem. But except for a few crafty images in "The Ring," the album never regains momentum. The flat arrangements don't help.

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