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POP MUSIC REVIEW : It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, but It Should Have Depth, Emotion

The teaming of Los Angeles bands Lions & Ghosts and Legal Reins might just represent the state of the art of so-called alternative guitar-based rock.

That’s not necessarily good.

In a recent show at the Whisky in Los Angeles, both bands alluded to emotions, but without conviction, and often rock convincingly, but without distinction. And most significantly, both borrow plenty while creating little.

Rich Parker, lead singer of headlining L&G;, which plays Club Postnuclear in Laguna Beach on Thursday, came out looking like a dilapidated Carnaby Street dandy in a thrift-store leopard-skin coat and matching oversize cap--the perfect attire for the worn, affected Anglicisms of the band’s 1987 debut album. But soon he cast off the cap, and with it the rounded musical textures, in favor of the more current but hardly fresh Replacements-like approach heard on the new “Wonder Garden” LP.

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But the Replacements’ earthy post-garage rock sloppiness has a purpose in supporting the man/child conflicts of the songs. L&G;'s songs don’t convey any of those conflicts and doubts, so the textures came off as merely for show.

A prime illustration of what’s wrong came midway through L&G;'s set when Parker announced that the band was going to do a song by another L.A. band (“It’s cool to be a band from Los Angeles,” he noted, without giving any clues as to why). As just about anyone on hand should have been able to predict, it was a Doors song (“Crystal Ship”), but offered without any fresh perspective. When X did the Doors’ “Soul Kitchen,” it served as a statement of the band’s intent to reshape or redefine what it means to be a band from L.A. L&G; shows no such desire.

Likewise Legal Reins, which showed no lack of melodic sense of propulsive and solid playing, but not much more. More often than not echoing the Bunnymen, the quartet worked up textures that hinted at some sort of dark anguish--also implied in the neo-bohemian mannerisms of singer Danny Benatar (yes, the little bro of you-know-who)--but not to any great effect.

Rather than skirting the edge and flirting with danger, this music dances around the middle and kisses up to convention. When either band did hit on something distinctive it seemed as much a matter of chance or a momentary drop in caution as anything else. But those were rare moments.

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Lions & Ghosts, Labor of Love and Human Drama play at 9 p.m. Thursday at Club Postnuclear, 775 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. Tickets: $6 to $7.50. Information: (714) 497-3881.


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