Duncan Sheik, 'White Limousine' (Rounder)

White Limousine
Critical Mass
Label: Zoe

by Jessica Grose

Poor Duncan Sheik. It must be hard to be neutered. In the mid-'90s, he was a spry young pup with a semi-original sound: softly haunting guitars, earnest lyrics. Sure, he wasn't the most manly dog in the litter -- back then he was "Barely Breathing" because his lady friend was withholding affection -- but at least he had enough of a sack to catch the ear of the adult contemporary crowd and to garner a BMI award for writing "Breathing," one of the "Most Played Songs of the Year." Nowadays, he has embraced Buddhism and writes songs that only the blandest of New Age yuppies could love, ones that haven't progressed musically since O.J. was on trial.

Although Duncan Sheik's music is stagnant, White Limousine is so well-intentioned that it's hard to hate the album completely. With "Star Field on Red Lines," Sheik is attempting to address the hypocrisy of the current American political climate, but due to his lack of sack these days, he's scared to make any definitive comment on the state of the country. Instead, he puts forth somewhat hackneyed, vague images, like "aprons of lead," "strong arms," and "soldiers to raise," over a plodding but spare background. C'mon, Dunc, even the Dixie Chicks were able to make an unambiguous anti-Bush statement.

"Let's go shopping / So we can find ourselves," Sheik sings on the blatantly awful "Shopping." Maybe he should look in the self-help aisle.

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