by D.M. Jones

When the fires of early-90s grunge finally flickered out, a few leftover embers still glowed enough to maintain its patchy remnants for the next decade or so. Bands (brands) like Creed and Nickelback surgically assembled the recognizable Cobain/Staley/Cornell-isms, backed them with competent yet nondescript power rock and made sure the soul patch on the singer’s chin never got too scruffy. This, unfortunately, is the legacy of the Movement That Killed the Hair Bands.

Which is not to say that the modern rock genre is empty or entirely without merit - let’s just call it “careerism made tuneful.” Ohio’s Northmont bears both the fruit and the burden of their influences on Waiting..., a moody and X-radio-friendly album that pushes all the right buttons.

The band hails from north Montgomery County (thus the name), which contains the one-time indie rock hotbed of Dayton. Northmont coalesced from different Dayton bands and began tirelessly touring, playing major-label showcases and eventually wound up getting some run on MTV.

Waiting... reflects the hard work the band has put into their campaign. The album, tracked in Austin, Texas, is immaculately recorded and easily passes the “cheap boombox” test (i.e., sounds good no matter what you play it on). The opener, “Gone,” establishes a driving tempo, with scratchy Edge-like guitars hovering over the grounded power chords that push the song. Start/stop guitars punctuate “Something Else,” while an impassioned lower-register vocal out-Stapp’s Scott Stapp on the lyrically ambivalent but uplifting “Honestly.”

The record settles into a fairly homogenous groove, rarely straying from moody mid-tempo rock. But the choruses almost always pay off, and the musicianship is top-notch. A prime example is the Matchbox 20-ish “Breaking,” with its stately blend of acoustic and electric guitars and an interesting ending that showcases the drums.

“Remembered” offers a nice detour, with a bass-only opening, guitar effects straight from the Cure and a frenetic, direct vocal. The song is driven home with powerful and busy drums.

In a nutshell, this album sounds ... expensive. Which is high praise for the brand of modern rock Northmont excels in making. The band appears at Piere’s in Wayne February 10 and 11.

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