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54 40 ON THE MAP

“5440.” 5440. Warner Bros. Imagine a less hit-conscious INXS, R.E.M. without the lyric obscurities, or a slightly more upbeat and less pretentious early Cure and you’ll have some idea what territory 54-40 is mapping out. On its major-label debut, the Vancouver-based quartet sounds commercially accessible while retaining some underground credibility. Neil Osbourne’s songs about youthful yearning and questioning aren’t strikingly original, but his heartfelt vocals, multi-instrumentalist Phil Comparelli’s occasional trumpet fills and plenty of backing vocals keep things interesting. The loud-guitar, big-drum sound may make 54-40 seem like just another Johnny-come-lately post-punk outfit, but quieter moments, such as the somber “Alcohol Heart,” hint that 54-40 might be the Great White North’s Great White Hope.


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