2 out of 5
Label: Hollywood Records
Produced by: Richard Podolor
Driving a Million, Gwen Mars’ second album, is a pretty damned fantastic pop album. Magnosheen, their debut, coming on the heels of grunge frenzy, features a group struggling with those pop instincts and their Nirvana / Smashing Pumpkins obsessions. The result, alas, is rather middling, with wonderfully crunchy production from Richard Podolor, but otherwise offering way too much of a mixed bag of riffs and anger to become something distinctive. Throughout Magnosheen, Gwen Mars seems to be refashioning themselves between songs, and then mid-song. Opener ‘Control’ is way too aggressive, fully amped up, and seems to amusingly end short in order for the band to reconsider their approach on ‘Heal Me,’ a catchier tune, but with a guitar sound ripped straight from Siamese Dream. Try again on ‘Cosmic Dick,’ the pop sense starting to peek out, and then it crashes into a Nirvana chorus and sticks in that mode. A slew of semi-singles follow, ‘Shrink’ finally mostly dropping the grunge sheen for something closer to ‘Driving a Million’s vaguely 80s sensibilities, and the title track is then almost fully into that mode; it’s a track that could’ve been on their followup. So the intuition was there, and it’s a shame it didn’t get to shine beyond that sophomore release.
But, I have to admit: I’m digging. These elements only peek out on retrospect, and after several listens. The remainder of the disc sinks back into the half-in grunge / half-something else nature, and when the album is taken as a whole, it’s just very, very generic to the point of being almost forgettable. I wish it were otherwise, but I listen to Driving a Million semi-regularly; Magnosheen – only for an occasional reminder of it not being that great.