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Class Clown, Like A Wave 

(Self-released, CD)

Rutland's punk-pop outfit Class Clown seem like they're on the cusp of something big. The band has already claimed victory over 50,000 other contestants in the2004 VH1/School of Rock Battle of the Bands; household-name status may not be far off.

VH1 viewership appeal is not a barometer I personally use to gauge quality, but then again, I'm convinced your average skateboarder should trash his entire CD collection and just pick up Lightning Bolt's Wonderful Rainbow. How you react to that statement is a good indicator of whether you'll love or hate Class Clown's latest, Like a Wave. Simply put, if you've ever chipped a tooth in the mosh pit at a Warped Tour, or youwear your baseball cap slightly cocked, this is your jam.

"The Good Die Young" ushers in the album with crunchy guitar stabs that form a double helix with a second, more intricate chord progression. Like Green Day, Class Clown feature a lead singer who sounds like he's battling a full-blown sinus infection. You can't blame the guy, as most other pop-punk vocalists have a similar delivery. But it may be a deal breaker for some listeners.

Class Clown are proficient instrumentalists who know how to keep things tight. "Rain Song" - no, it's not a Zeppelin cover - kicks off with guitar arpeggios and acoustic strumming, which are anchored byan insistent bass line. Unfortunately, the tune taps a children's song for lyrical inspiration. "Rain, rain,don't go away, I enjoy your company / It's the cloudiest I've seen it; it's like it knows that I am leaving/ But spring showers bring these May flowers that lead into the sun," Jeremy Sicotte sings.

"Bring Me Down" provides the opportunity for a spirited round of Count the Lyrical Clichés. The songc ontains several wince-worthy lines, such as, "You pick me up when I'm feeling down / You give me hope when I feel like there's no one around / You never bring me down, and I'm asking you to save me now."

As is the case with most of Like a Wave's tracks, "I Won't Say" kicks off with about 10 seconds of interesting guitar, but quickly devolves into derivative, pop-punk power chords. Axe man Matt Ward introduces some Edge-like tones later in the tune, but it's all too fleeting to be truly satisfying.

Like a Wave won't garner accolades for innovation, but today's mainstream music fan isn't exactly looking to be challenged. Class Clown's impending move to Los Angeles will likely bring them a larger audience, and allow them to further hone their craft. You'll have one last chance to throw some elbows attheir sendoff at the Higher Ground Ballroom on Saturday, March 24

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