Ajar: Face Down Lobby 

After you listen to a few thousand CDs or so, sometimes stuff blurs together in new and hallucinatory ways. In a nutshell, that sums up my reaction to Ajar's Face Down Lobby. Things blur on this album; the center definitely does not hold, and yet ... there's something there.

It's hard to pin down what, exactly. Granted, not everything fits into this melange of sounds and influences. It seems like every band that flirts with the hard and heavy sound of bands like Tool, Korn and other mono-moniker groups feels it has to throw in Cookie Monster vocals. Let me state for the record that I am way the hell over that throat-shredding style. To their credit, Ajar goes light on the Muppet mash, preferring to let singer Andres Paz actually sing except for a few howls on "... Bassinette" and "Wheelchair." He's a pretty good vocalist, too, except for some weirdness on "Kidnapping" that sounds like he forgot what key he was in.

Although Ajar would probably like to be lumped into the same bin as Tool ("Mourning Glory" sounds a lot like an Undertow-era Maynard James Keenan outake), Ajar can't hide their fondness for piano and introspective lyrics. "Nothing" and "Cerequil Caracell," which sit square in the middle of the album, are sweet, slow pieces that are probably designed to get the Goth chicks, but really show that somebody in the band was paying attention to Billy Joel compositions at some point. That unusual hitch in their step, combined with their fondness for studio manipulation and complex (sometimes surreally so) lyrics, mark Face Down Lobby as an album that, if not completely cohesive, is far more interesting than most of their peers can manage.

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