33 to Nothing may do its bastard subgenre-the rock-and-roll-rehearsal playas well as it can be done. If so, the painful limitations of this boy-loses-lead-guitarist saga teach that not everything is worth doing. The fundamental problem lies with the music. No one expects rock brilliance from a theater world in which Spring Awakening represents the cutting edge. But Varjas and company have assembled a decent band, playing competent pop songs and garnering comparisons to Coldplay, Bowie, and Lou Reed. To my ear, though, their blandly moody midtempo numbers sound nearer to a keyboard-driven Nickelback or Daughtry, while the lyrical generalities delivered in Grant Varjas's stirring baritone conjure the still-warm ghost of Jon Bon Jovi. Simply put, the band is good enough to make you wish they were a lot betterbut it's hard to be a great rock band, especially as a sideline. Of course, there's a story that goes along with the songs: The band's breaking up, and the singer has a drinking problem. Playwright Varjas plays the egomaniacal singer Gray almost sympathetically, while singer-songwriter Preston Clarke, as lead guitarist Bri, has a stoic decency reminiscent of Bob Mould. But without the songs, the story's nothing special, and, unfortunately, vice versa.
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