Rule one of song titling: don't give any of your songs the same name as other more popular works if you're not covering them - your audience will get bitter. If you absolutely, positively must do so, it'd be nice if your song sounds something like its precursor: a song that's essentially three minutes of crunchy synthesizers should NOT be called "Rhapsody in Blue". An unrequited love song should NOT be called "Imagine."

Read My Sign, the first (and, I think, only) album to come from German 90's alternative band Bell, Book & Candle makes those mistakes. It makes others, too, but those're the ones that stick in my head.

Sounding like a cross between the more forgettable elements of The Cranberries and Ace of Base, Read My Sign is about as standard as mid-nineties rock can get. The idiosyncratic vocal stylings of Jana Gross (think Alanis Morissette before she found god and tranquilizers, just with an affected Irish accent that doesn't quite mask her natural German rasp) with a backing band that does most of the heavy lifting (like a less busy Collective Soul that leans a wee bit too heavily on the looping synth sounds) would be an awesome combination if the lyrics weren't so utterly vapid. Listening to it, I find myself grooving to the bass player's work and cringing when the singing starts. If you can ignore the words, more power to you.

There are some gems, here - the titular track has an awesome harmonized chorus, and "Heyo" has one of those unavoidably catchy nonsense syllable hooks. "Rescue Me," the band's one single, makes the mistake of repeating the title three times in a row per verse, and if the melody wasn't so good (and yet, again, oddly Celtic) it'd be unbearable to listen to.

All of the record's best moments occur on the fast numbers, and it's no surprise - when the band slows down it sounds exactly like every other now forgotten girl-fronted band circa 1995 - but the speedy stuff can at least be stomped around to if you turn the bass up enough.

It could be worse.

Track listing:

  1. Hurry Up
  2. Read My Sign
  3. Still Points
  4. Heyo
  5. Imagine
  6. Realize
  7. Rescue Me
  8. Dark Moon
  9. Rhapsody in Blue
  10. See Ya
  11. Hear Me
  12. So Right
  13. Destiny

I grabbed this CD out of a bargain bin because the band's name reminded me of Gertrude Stein.
It was an error.