Marty Casey saddled his band with a name that unfortunately conjures memories of Spinal Tap — Lovehammers is not a far cry from Nigel Tufnel's "Lick My Love Pump" — which could very well be part of the reason why he and Lovehammers were stuck eking out a living in Chicago for years. Only when Casey joined the cast of the first season of CBS's Rock Star, a reality show where the winner joined INXS as their lead vocalist, did the Lovehammers capture some national attention, particularly since Casey turned into a fan favorite, winding up as the second-place finisher on the show. That led Casey and the Lovehammers to a major-label contract with Epic, which released an eponymous album in the first weeks of 2006. This is not their first album — in 2004, they released Murder on My Mind, a self-released debut. Marty Casey & Lovehammers is on a much larger scale, of course, and appropriately, it's been given a production that's big, glossy, and shiny, something that's ready for radio. Lovehammers weren't always this slick — Murder on My Mind was a hard, heavy neo-grunge album, and prior to Rock Star, the band did a few sessions with the notoriously independent record producer/engineer Steve Albini, one of which ("Straight as an Arrow") carried over to this album. But that's the exception to the rule here: apart from that brief blow tucked away at the end of the album, this is polished, hooky neo-grunge the likes of which hasn't been heard on mainstream radio since about 1996 or 1997. This isn't a revival so much as it is a re-creation, and it's a successful one that would sound comfortable played next to Bush, Stone Temple Pilots, Sponge, Better Than Ezra, the Verve Pipe, or Seven Mary Three, and lacking the grim monotony and meatheaded misogyny that plagues Nickelback and Puddle of Mudd. That's because the Lovehammers really are a straight-ahead rock band that came of age during the great alt-rock boom of the '90s and never caught a break while the music was a success. Now that they have that break, they've made a record that sounds like it's about ten years old, but in a pleasant way, since it has glistening hooks and some strong riffs, and Casey is an ingratiating frontman, never sounding quite muscular enough for the music but somehow more appealing because of it. If Marty Casey & Lovehammers was released during the peak of alt-rock in 1996, it may have faded into the background, leaving behind only a single that got some rotation on 120 Minutes, but in 2006, there aren't many mainstream bands doing this kind of music, so it winds up sounding a little fresh, even if it doesn't exactly sound new or distinctive. Nevertheless, it's a good modern rock record, and even if it took a reality show to get Marty Casey & Lovehammers to a national stage, this proves that they're ready to seize the opportunity now that it's finally landed in their laps.