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Hope of the States

British rock is alive and well, if recent albums by such acts as Franz Ferdinand, the Zutons and Snow Patrol are an indication. And the debut album from Hope of the States, a combo from Cichester, England, is the stuff of rock critics' wet dreams.

Hope of the States juggles and combines its influences enough to sound sufficiently original, if not actually forge a new sound. The arrival on these shores of The Lost Riots last month was tinged with some sadness, too, as guitarist and founding member James Lawrence took his own life this past January.

Singer-guitarist Sam Herlihy is as charismatic a bloke as the Libertines' Pete Doherty, and his vocals contain a pinch of Greg Dulli's swagger, a dash of Billy Corgan's ennui and a dollop of Thom Yorke's yowl.

Herlihy's damn good at turning out truly meaningful phrases--"Keep your friends close / your enemies don't matter in the end" or "Sparks come from anywhere / it's the fire that matters"--that on first mention boast aphoristic truth. But when he repeats them over the course of a tune, they take on the weight of mantras.

The band can whip itself into a good ol' rock 'n' roll frenzy and reach emotional catharsis in the majestic same tension-and-release manner as does Spiritualized, leavening many tracks with minimalist rock crescendos such as those of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Explosions in the Sky.

In this music also can be heard a proliferation of allusions to glammy Mott the Hoople stuff, the Edwardian pop structures of the Kinks and some droning background soundscapes a la Robert Fripp and Brian Eno. Derivative? Certainly. The Lost Riots also is a genuine joy.

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