keith urban

Keith Urban's status as a country star must be such conventional wisdom by now that no one told Urban himself. It's not until the seventh song on Love, Pain & the whole crazy thing that there's even a trace of country. Of course, in the preceding six songs, there are plenty of other styles-soft rock, alt-rock, disco and a Celtic-flavored ditty serving as a reminder of his Aussie roots.

The disc is a poppy confection that's often pleasant and seldom anything more. Too many of the songs rely on clichés about wide-open skies, lonely roads and so on, although always with the requisite sweeping, sing-along choruses. Pure speculation of course, but with so many songs assuring that he'll "be there," recent bride Nicole Kidman must have insecurity issues.

Frenetic, funky shuffle "Faster Car," right in the middle of the disc, is by far the album's most engaging and inspired track, and the one where he best manages to capture some of the swagger of peers like Big and Rich. In step with the rest of the album, it's all horns and crunch, without a pedal steel guitar or fiddle in sight.

A few notable misfires: the heinous "God Made Woman" and faux-hoedown "Raise the Barn"-you're from Australia, pal, not Mississippi. Love bursts with sugary flavor, but it's not likely to fill you up.


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