Promises, Promises

Eve 6 ain't no Limp Bizkit or Kid Rock, but I'll bet you my Starter cap that Eve 6 singer, songwriter and bassist Max Collins listened to hip-hop growing up. Though the music on his band's second album, Horrorscope, is steeped more in synth-tinged '80s pop than rock-rap, Collins' cadence and rhyme schemes reveal a fondness for the original microphone killers.

Think about it: "Wanna put my tender heart in a blender," the hook from the band's 1998 hit "Inside Out," would sound great in a rap — which is probably why Fred Durst nicked the line for Bizkit's "Nookie." Hip-hop, of course, is rooted in top-of-your-head freestyling, where quick rhythms and back-to-back rhymes are rightly praised as high art.

Unfortunately, Eve 6's songs are laced with wordplay for its own sake — as if the rhymes come first, then characters and stories are shoehorned in. Horrorscope abounds with such gimmickry, hitting a peak on "On the Roof Again." "Leroy didn't think to think and in the blink of an eye/ Tied the knot not knowing how to not know," Collins sings. But wait, there's more: "Your heinous highness broke her hymen, hey man try to quit your crying." Real cute — and in a song about suicide, no less.

While "Inside Out" seemed to establish this L.A. trio as a standard late-'90s pop-rock outfit, Horrorscope is brimming with '80s touchstones. Witness the synth riffs that drive "Rescue;" the Duran Duran guitar bursts in "On the Roof Again;" and "Here's to the Night," which sounds like a ready-made late-era Heart ballad. Admittedly, Eve 6 pack plenty of radio-friendly hooks into these songs. Yet the catchiness of the melodies on songs such as the hit "Promise" (RealAudio excerpt) — a kiss-off-in-the-guise-of-love pledge that bears hints of R.E.M.'s "The One I Love" — is consistently overwhelmed by stilted lyrics ("Maladjusted just untrusted rusted sometimes brilliant busted thoughts").

Still, if you fish around a bit, you'll find several good ideas here, some of which may have worked better in different hands. Comparing a love interest to Jessica Rabbit (from "Rescue" [RealAudio excerpt]) would play well coming from Blink-182, who know how to dish the silliness. And a phrase like "Gone for good again," from "Here's to the Night," would make a fine song title for anyone. The problem is that these ideas aren't developed. They're simply piled one on top of another with no editing ... like a freestyler rattling rhyme after rhyme off the top of his head.

On the band's current tour, Collins is laying off the bass to concentrate on his singing. If he put that same emphasis on nurturing just a few of the many thoughts buzzing in his head, it might help make Eve 6's next disc more than just fodder for nostalgia radio 15 years from now.