Rock steady 

Three5Human

When you hear Atlanta rock band Three5Human's new album, A Swig From the Acid Bottle, it's easy to categorize the band under "black rock." But what does that term mean?

Black rock first emerged in the 1980s through several bands and sympathetic music critics, many of whom banded together as the Black Rock Coalition. Its most famous member was Living Colour. The collective's co-founder, Vernon Reid, built bridges between experimental jazz (John Zorn, Ronald Shannon Jackson), hip-hoppers (Public Enemy, the Roots) and his popular hard rock band Living Colour with his stunningly virtuoso guitar techniques.

On A Swig From the Acid Bottle, Three5Human doesn't cover the same ground, even though its leader and guitarist Tomi Martin has crafted feedback-cloaked solos for OutKast (Speakerboxxx/The Love Below) and other Atlanta stars. Three5Human sticks to heavy rock of the kind made by Nickelback and Incubus, albeit with a strong sense of rhythm. Like the latter group, singer Trina Meade writes firmly structured songs with clear verses and choruses, and lyrics that bear inspirational messages. "You can look on, Baby Eyes/You can see through the pack of lies," she suggests on "Baby Eyes." Some of the cuts are full of unrealistic aspirations. On "Perfect Dream" she sings, "I'll get up and I'll go/To a place where perfect dreams are made of/And leave behind everything that makes me sad."

Meade's folksy, storytelling approach and Martin's hard rock makes for a "swig" that tastes slightly aged. This isn't emo or heavy metal, but meat-and-potatoes stuff. Three5Human's individualism lies in the nice funk vibe on "Front Line," a tale about a Vietnam veteran, and the country lilt that opens "Disco Ragdoll."

Close friends Amy Ray and Emily Saliers from Indigo Girls check in for guest appearances, and Smashing Pumpkins producer Jeff Tomei produced the album's 12 tracks. Heartfelt performances and songwriting carry A Swig from the Acid Bottle; it bears qualities everyone can appreciate.

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