Better Than Ezra's latest effort is trimmed of all excess.

Better Than Ezra's latest effort is trimmed of all excess. Gone are the gnawing avant-leanings of 1998's How Does Your Garden Grow?, replaced with a solid set of radio-ready melodies. Irrepressible hooks abound, as with the guitar-driven choruses on such rockers as "Sincerely Me" and "I Do." The gentler moments are handled exquisitely, including "Briefly" and the Aerosmith-inflected title track, an exquisite power ballad. The album's first single, "Extra Ordinary" (featuring DJ Swamp), is the lone head-scratcher here; a country groove that inserts a whimsy nugget of Barenaked Ladies featuring such absurd, name-dropping lines as "I've got more hooks than Madonna's got looks." While such weirdness constitutes branching out for Better Than Ezra, the band is best off mining the straight-up rock know-how that made "Good" and "Desperately Wanting" so successful. On the remainder of Closer, it seems clear the band knows this, and the album finishes by capitalizing on a winning pop sound.—SB

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