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Album review: Vertical Horizon's 'Burning the Days'

September 21, 2009 |  5:22 pm


Earlier this year, Third Eye Blind proved there's still a lucrative market for late-'90s nostalgia, though that group's latest release, “Ursa Major,” had a vibrancy that made the familiar seem fresh. By comparison, "Burning the Days" -- the first new studio disc in six years from Vertical Horizon, one of the most-played acts on Top 40 radio in the late '90s -- feels flat and lifeless. Guest spots by Richard Marx and Rush drummer Neil Peart do little to help.

There's craft here, to be sure: As a songwriter, frontman Matt Scannell knows precisely how to move between verses and choruses with the sense of inevitability that radio demands. He'd probably do great work in Nashville, penning tunes for artists with the charisma required to take a piece of material from page to stage. Indeed, Gary Allan had a big country hit in 2005 with his version of Vertical Horizon's "Best I Ever Had."

But craft rarely succeeds on its own, and too much of "Burning the Days" highlights the fine line between the universal and the flavorless. These dozen tracks virtually define the middle ground -- not too hard, not too soft; not too fast, not too slow; a little bit country, a little bit rock 'n' roll.

-- Mikael Wood

Vertical Horizon

"Burning the Days"
One and a half stars