Conventional wisdom has it that lots of guys join rock and roll bands because it's a good way to impress girls, but the sad truth is, the average geeky rock dude who picks up a guitar in the hopes it will make him more like, say, Robin Zander, discovers he's become Rick Nielsen instead, a nerdy guy whose newly electrified angst makes him no more popular with the ladies than he ever was before. Ed Masley made something of a career out of chronicling the frustrations of regular guys with his woefully underrated band the Frampton Brothers, and the first song on the debut album from his new group, the Breakup Society finds him examining the very same Geeky Rock Guy Conundrum as he ponders the fact that every girl he was nuts about in high school was in love with the same guy — Robin Zander. James at 35 is a de facto concept album about various and sundry forms of girl trouble which suggests that, like many of us, Masley's understanding of the opposite sex has only progressed so far in the 18 years since he got out of high school. Fortunately, Masley is smart enough to be fully aware of this, and more importantly, he's written a batch of witty (and painfully accurate) songs about the joys and terrors of post-adolescent romance. On James at 35, Masley bemoans the fact that academia taught him nothing about women; he puzzles over his crushes on a teen idol with questionable talent; realizes his taste in clothes is just as bad as his girlfriend's choice of friends; visits a fond landmark from a previous relationship that his ex doesn't even remember, and wonders out loud why his latest love likes him so much, as he and the Breakup Society kick up a storm of pop-smart rock and roll, with the guitars of Masley and Sean Lally striking a solid balance between hooky bliss and solid crunch, while the rhythm section makes off with a solid wallop. Ed Masley is hardly the first guy to write songs about his romantic problems, but it's been a while since someone wrapped so many good ones into a package that's as satisfying as James at 35, and the Breakup Society's freshman offering is a must for anyone who loves tough but hook-laden pop-rock with guts, smarts, and plenty of humor. -AMG
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