Now that Keanu Reeves has inked a deal to make two more Matrix movies, the chances of getting another fix of Bill and Ted's Wyld Stallyns looks pretty slim. Though Reeves shelved his stoner alter ego for more serious work, he hasn't kissed off the rock-and-roll fantasy just yet -- he's simply taken it to much less amusing arenas with Dogstar.
Keanu Reeves the Bassist makes his return on Happy Ending, Dogstar's sophomore effort, with the same ho-hum results one expects from vanity bands. Though Reeves teams up with and plays second fiddle to passably talented musicians in Dogstar, there's not enough glamour in all of Hollywood to make up for the band's lack of oomph.
Though Dogstar aims for the radio-friendly style of alt-rock icons such as Matchbox Twenty or the Wallflowers, it only drizzles the watery and anonymous fodder of Total Request Live wannabes. Frontman Bret Domrose gives it his all in songs like "Slipping Down" and "A Dreamtime," but his boy-next-door delivery and kindergarten-teacher-friendly guitar stylings are enough to make the Stallyns' fictional metal seem downright interesting. Further dogging the album's already humdrum sound, Domrose aims his themes at the same faceless everywoman as nearly every other alt-rocker on the planet, which makes Happy Ending the equivalent of a Harlequin novel. "You are the sun/ I wanna see everything/ I will not run/ I wanna be everything in you" he purrs in "Cornerstore," a garbled mess of pseudo-romance sure to warm the heart of junior varsity pompom-squad members and bored housewives alike.
As gimmicks go, Dogstar has a damn good one: a photogenic, high-profile pop icon left to hold down its low end. Unfortunately, it isn't a gimmick that translates when placed in a studio, leaving Dogstar's shortcomings all too obvious and exposed. While Domrose does a noble job of holding his band together, it's a losing battle. Though the rhythm section is never actually inept, Domrose spends most of the album pulling Reeves and drummer Robert Mailhouse out of a coma.
Sleepy even by lite-alternative-rock standards, Happy Ending is Dogstar's embarrassing attempt to ride some serious coattails and pass as a real band; unfortunately, the performance is a pretty bad piece of theater. Even worse, Happy Ending doesn't even posses the joyfully campy qualities that sometimes makes a film/TV star's descent into music recording so strangely appealing. It ain't William Shatner. Or David Hasselhoff, for that matter. The best thing about the recording lies in its title: The only real moment of enjoyment is the end.
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