Being tagged as a Smiths rip-off -- as Aveo was after dropping its debut album in 2001 -- does not bode well for any band desperate to carve out its own niche in an already packed-to-overflowing pop scene. So it's helpful that on Battery, produced by the almost-legendary Phil Ek (Built to Spill, Modest Mouse), the Seattle-based trio is an absolute picture of full pop maturity: soaring, goose-bump vocals and a heavy dose of guitar parts that make your fists clench involuntarily, yet with a relaxed enough tempo that you can still, say, clean the house to it.
Happily, in fact, Aveo's only discernable flaw is also -- clearly -- its most endearing attribute: William Wilson's Brit-inflected vocals are a bit phony. But really, is that such a big deal? They're also gorgeously even, and unique enough to make the album a melodic success, instruments or no instruments. That's something even The Mozzer himself couldn't claim. But taken as a solitary unit, Battery does seem to lack a certain cohesion: While all but one or two tracks stand out beautifully on their own, there's a certain missing storyline that adds a disjointed, semi-schizoid feel to a project that should have felt more orchestral -- or even operatic -- than mix-tape. So thank heaven for the jaw-droppers that steal the show nonetheless, like "Fistfights With Mr. G," a forlornly existential number that'll have you weeping under the covers until the rest of Battery cries you to sleep -- phony vocals, goose-bumps and all.