Often times I become some sort of basketball coach for song structure while listening to music. Picture Bobby Knight, prowling the sidelines of the headphones, working up a sweat as he screams to his players, "Don't just mingle around! Get to that chorus and hit it hard! You're killing me here... there it is! That's the way to do it! Now get back on defense." I'm an active participant.

My coaching instinct kicked in during Connected, the latest delivery from The Bruises, and in many cases my inner coach was barking shouts of delight. Especially in cases like "Hold Me Down," as soon as I thought to yell, "Don't blow it," and The Bruises don't. Using straight-up pop techniques with one foot in the Go-Go's and the other in Matthew Sweet, Connected's strongest tracks play that wonderful game of ear tease, where the song begins with promise, doesn't give too much away at the beginning, then lives up to full potential, creating a rewarding three-to-four-minute journey. I only wish each individual song journey added up to a collectively fantastic entire-album journey. The Bruises do their best work in short blasts, such as the jam "Safety in Recovery." My frustration came about only because the vocals are neither so radically different from anything I've heard before nor do they vary that greatly from song to song to break the monotony. Coach Ears is easy to please when it comes to lyrics, but he's tough on repetition verging on monotony.

But this band's got nuts. Big, rock nuts. You can hear them on "Wake Up" and "Distraction," the latter representing some of the best multi-vocal work on an album with lots of hot multi-vocal work. General Knight wouldn't reward The Bruises simply for the effort, but he would be encouraged at the use of the band's talents. A little more practice, and it's trophies all around.

A note of personal privilege: If you're gonna be a duo, be a flipping duo. Don't bill yourselves as a couple of rockin' ladies and then let me find out you've got two other members you just play with. Why not them in the damn band? What, like you're Paul McCartney? If it's some sort of legal thing, then I can sort of understand. But I doubt letting in your rhythm section -- a capable and important element on the new CD -- would result in a huge loss for the Bruises Empire.

"Perfect Vision" MP3

The Bruises