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The Grift, Life Beyond Aluminum 

(GlennSource Records, CD)

As the spotlight on the jam-band scene grows dimmer, you have to wonder if bands like The Grift are the result or the cause of the genre's waning popularity. At a time when many groups are striving for something new and different, The Grift have released their second studio album, Life Beyond Aluminum. Unfortunately, it's a derivative melange of the worst aspects of the last 10 years in music.

Composed of four transplants now calling Vermont their home, The Grift aim for that good old, Strangefolk-style groove feel. Except they've left out most of the catchy hooks. Repetitive guitar strumming is partially hidden behind superfluous DJ scratching, resulting in a mismatched urban-folk collision. Live bands have successfully brought in record cutters before, but it helps when the DJ does more than just scratch the word break back and forth.

Vocal harmonies are the highlight of the disc; for the most part the band's smartly rhythmic singing complements the music. Of course, there are several exceptions, such as when they attempt to (gasp!) rap over their folksy melodies. With odes to living in West Addison, playing at UVM and claims that Route 22A is "better known as the deuce-deuce," this is hip-hop for your grandmother to enjoy.

The main problem with Life Beyond Aluminum is that it never really takes off, energy-wise. Whatever dynamic these guys may have in their live performances somehow wasn't captured in the studio. Lost girlfriends and self-indulgence are common lyrical themes, which drag the music into tepid ballad territory. The disc starts off upbeat, but each track seems to be slower than the previous one. Things start to pick up again halfway through the cut "Vegas." A gritty guitar hook is complemented by a welcome trumpet overlay, but the tune quickly falls back into the same lackadaisical haze.

The real con here -- the true "grift" -- is that the band has the balls to call itself a funk act. But the soul is probably at the bottom of their Birkenstocks. The Grift play at Nectar's every Wednesday through the month of March, plowing through a different decade of cover tunes in each set. You can hear for yourself how their own music stands up to rock's greatest hits.

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