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BRACKET (Buy CDs by this artist)
924 Forestville St. (Caroline) 1994
4-Wheel Vibe (Caroline) 1995

It's almost impossible not to think of Bracket as a minor-league Green Day. The two bands have an undeniable similarity in style and sound — the same catchy melodies, power-chord guitars and bratty vocals-and Bracket's signing came hard on the heels of Green Day's multi-platinum Dookie. The quartet from the northern California town of Forestville even borrows the Green Day device of stopping the instruments for a few beats so the vocals can hammer home a hook.

But that's not to say that 924 Forestville St. doesn't have charms of its own. Unlike the snarl and slacker angst of Dookie, Bracket offers a sunnier, more lighthearted variety of pop-punk, with lots of sweet harmonizing and a few tasty (but regulation short) guitar solos. Bouncy, slaphappy cuts like "Huge Balloon" and "Why Should Eye?" chug along with head-bobbing energy to spare, and the band even adds a dollop of reggae to the verses of "J. Weed."

Bracket trips over its own ambition on 4-Wheel Vibe, stuck in an uneasy compromise between its pop-punk roots and a heavier, ostensibly more commercial, sound. Don Fleming's production beefs up the band's bottom end and adds a metallish tinge to the guitars (there's even a track called "Metal"), but the incessant tempo changes and busier arrangements just bog things down. Louder, faster and more emphatic equals less fun here. By the time Bracket takes its stab at a power ballad ("Pessimist"), it's clear the band's new direction has been a monumental wrong turn.

[Jim Testa]