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Album Review

Better Than Ezra was always a staunchly classicist band, raised on the college rock of the '80s and turning out a series of earnest records that paid homage to that sound but were released in the post-grunge era. They had more success than most post-grungers since they were classicists dressed up in heavy sincerity, but they had hooks, best illustrated on the breakthrough "Good" and the yearning "Desperately Wanting." But as the '90s drew to a close, most guitar bands of the mid-'90s were hit hard by shifting tastes and changing fashions, leaving the group out in the cold along with many of their peers. BTE regrouped on a new label, Beyond, turning out Closer in 2001. In one sense, time treated the group well, since they simply became better at their craft. Kevin Griffin's songwriting is easier, rarely suffering from the strained sincerity that dragged down many of their albums. This time around, his melodic sense is sharper — not just on rockers, but on ballads — and his songs are given excellent treatment by a muscular band, presented in a supple production by Brad Wood. If there is a problem with the record, it's because Closer is occasionally constrained by its time, particularly on the neo-hip-hop of two tracks featuring DJ Swamp (though "Rolling," featuring Toddy, is a highlight). These aren't necessarily bad — and the single "Extra Ordinary" is catchy, despite Griffin's rap — but they do give the album an appearance of trying too hard, when this really is the most natural and best record they've ever made.


Formed: 1988 in New Orleans, LA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Along with such similarly styled outfits as the Goo Goo Dolls, the New Orleans-based trio Better Than Ezra helped open the floodgates for countless alt-pop acts of the late '90s (including Semisonic, Matchbox Twenty, and Third Eye Blind) by merging college rock influences with mainstream aspirations. Originally formed in 1988 as a roots rock outfit with slight elements of country and punk, the group's first incarnation consisted of four college students from Louisiana State University: Kevin Griffin...
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Closer, Better Than Ezra
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