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Craig Maierhofer

49 Floors (MRM Records)

Craig Maierhofer was part of Orphan Tears, a popular local combo from the '90s whose shot at the bigtime struck wide of the mark. Like his previous work, 49 Floors drips with commercial potential -- and other stuff, too. Folks who think "Your Body Is a Wonderland" represents the pinnacle of 21st-century songcraft are likely to embrace Maierhofer's sometimes catchy/sometimes cloying melodies and romantic solipsism, while conscientious objectors would be well advised to run and hide.

On the page, Maierhofer's lyrics occasionally hint at personal pain that can't be eased with a generous dollop of Preparation H. On "Twisted Again," for instance, he declares that "the tortures of a true man are upon me," while "Oxygen" tweaks a lover who's fallen from favor with survivalist couplets such as "Any way you take me down/I will overcome you." Too bad Maierhofer's pleasantly anonymous singing generally prevents the words from biting -- and despite sporadic injections of pseudo-jazziness typified by "Sister Shannon," which name-checks Steely Dan, the tastefully weightless acoustic instrumentation does likewise. The results are literate, well played and professional, yet undeniably vague, like that guy you stopped dating because you couldn't remember what he looked like even when you were together.

Why do some discs of this sort find an audience and others vanish without a trace? Does the music industry conduct random drawings to choose the next sensitive male singer-songwriter? If so, Maierhofer had better hope that his ticket comes up, or else he could be shedding orphan tears again (www.craigmaierhofer.com).

 
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