Good intentions, bad execution

LFO’s self-titled debut album from 1999 was the poster child for everything wrong with the boy band craze.

At its best, it was inane; at its worst, dismal. The rushly recorded album was nothing more than a cookie cutter collection of ballads, dance pop and white boy R&B. It came across as calculated as it was.

In an interview with SonicNet, Rich Cronin vowed to incorporate more rock into LFO’s next album. The first step in accomplishing this endeavor, however, was ditching boy band svengali Louis J. Pearlman as executive producer.

Cronin takes the reigns of LFO’s second album, Life Is Good, and it certain deserves high marks in the effort category.

The band keeps its promise — the guitars on the album aren’t buried under slick R&B beats. The power ballads and dance numbers have given way to a more diverse approach, where hip-hop, pop, rock and a bit of dub meet.

Life Is Good is nothing if not ambitious.

“6 Minutes”, which I hope doesn’t refer to any of the members’ bedroom proficiency, jumps from a dancehall chant to a thump-whack rock ‘n’ roll backbeat between verse and chorus.

“Erase Her” shows the trio channeling a bit of Depeche Mode. “Where You Are” attempts to horn in on the Goo Goo Dolls-meet-Backstreet Boys action BBMak has going.

“Gravity” sounds like an ‘NSync outtake, while “That’s The Way It Is” targets the grunge-lite audience that digs Vertical Horizon and 3 Doors Down.

But those are the exceptions.

For the most part, LFO stays well within their trademark pop/hip-hop sound, even accomodating De La Soul and MOP on a few tracks.

With the musical breadth covered by Life Is Good, it’s almost criminal the guys in the band don’t quite have the singing talent to pull it all off.

Devon Lima, whose soulful voice dominated the last album, is mostly absent here, and his fellow members Cronin and Brad Young don’t have the same kind of vocal strength.

Then there’s that irritating habit of name-dropping current cultural icons. Guys — all that’ll do is make your music terribly dated a decade from now. Will teenage girls in 2011 really care about Ben Affleck? Will the grown women who listened to your music in 2001 still care?

It’s nice to see that LFO really does care that it’s perceived as something more than a get-rich-quick scheme, and the members definitely attempt to wriggle free from the constraints to big business pop.

But there’s a huge gulf between concept and execution. LFO secured the musical material to break out of the mold, but it doesn’t have the talent to hold up its creds.

The heart is there. The ability is not.