Seattle singer/songwriter Ben Averch may sound like a band at times, but he's definitely a lone warrior. On his latest album, Averch cranks the noise level higher than it's ever been -- and every thump and crackle is the offspring of his fingers. Averch is a one-man army, one who doesn't subscribe to the water-cooler blandness of his acoustic-pop brethren. While many male solo artists are veering toward the folk route, Averch lets rip his Guitar Hero. The result is a sound that combines the slick Modern Rock of the '80s with the ominous fuzz of '90s Alternative Nation.
The greatest strength of the CD is in its first four blockbusters. On "Love Me Anyway," Averch captures the breathless heartache of Bob Mould (there's even a lyrical nod to Mould's pioneering group Hüsker Dü) with a sparkling pop sheen. It's a killer track, one that attaches itself to the ears with sticky hooks. This would've been played endlessly on Modern Rock radio circa 1992; actually, it's not even that far off from the Foo Fighters today. "You Know I Need You" is darker, creating a tense atmosphere of romantic obsession and longing with spine-tingling acoustic riffs that eventually explode in a wall of electric angst. Layers of introspective brooding make "You Know I Need You" so effective. On "It's Getting Away from Me" and "The Hook," Averch continues to unveil his arsenal of memorable and addictive melodies, all presented with a shadow of inner turmoil.
Eschewing the ironic twists and low-fidelity quirks of indie rock, Averch proudly marches with a style of his own, free from trendy inspirations. The arena-ready "One and the Same" combines the bracing grunge of Sugar with the epic guitars of U2 while "Landfill" finds Averch down in a hole of his own personal hell. Alternative rock used to mean something, and this record reminds us of its true definition.