Warning: This is not a progressive rock album full of lushly orchestrated epics, ethereal lyrics and overly serious musicians. Rather, Rhythmunderground, the latest album from veteran singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ric Sandler, is a self-produced progressive rock album in the sense that it actually strives to expand the indie-rock genre. By sounding like Peter Gabriel on the title track and then like Jimmy Buffet on "Tired of Knockin'," Sandler creates a credible yet carefree vibe for the whole record – one that keeps listeners anticipating each song. Much like ex-Spock's Beard singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Neal Morse, Sandler infuses his music with emotion, poignancy and wit. He seems like the kind of guy you wouldn't mind hanging out with while drinking beers on the back porch at dusk.
At least one track from Rhythmunderground ("2 Different Worlds") sounds as if it could have landed on Morse's second solo album, It's Not Too Late, while "Big Boy" boasts a touch of reggae and "I Feel You Inside" takes a bluesy turn. Then there's "You Don't Know Me," a two-minute-and-20-second punk song that's easily the album's heaviest and most raucous tune. On "Rubies," a catchy pop song about a woman who watches her life slip by (and a track that's also climbing the R&R radio charts), Sandler displays his colorful writing style with lines like "The girls thought she was brazen/The boys said she was stacked/The envy of her school/The prettiest in fact/Til the actress in the lunchroom didn't know where she was at." Open-minded rock and metal fans might even dig closing track "Back2tharhythm," a hip-hop song that should feel out of place here but doesn't.
There is so much variety on Rhythmunderground that it's tough to slot the record neatly into any solid category. But if your tastes can veer away from the lofty, the heavy or the hard – even for 50 minutes – I can almost guarantee you this disc will make you feel better than you did an hour ago.