VAST (Visual Audio Sensory Theatre), Music for People (Elektra): One of the reasons rock 'n' roll has ceded so much pop-cultural space to hip-hop and fluffy pop is its refusal to think big. It's seemingly rooted in the legacy of punk and the "indie" aesthetic, which still pervades too many rockers' mindsets. At one point such an outlook was a necessary antidote to the aging rock dinosaurs who roamed the land; today, its effect is merely to cripple and marginalize the music, music we wouldn't even be talking about if bands like The Beatles, The Stones and The Doors hadn't once "thought big." Which is where VAST's main man, Jon Crosby, comes in. As the title Music for People would suggest, Californian Crosby is a man on a mission, which is to bring back into vogue hooky, yet intelligent and stylistically ambitious rock 'n' roll, replete with strong vocals, hummable melodies and loud guitars. Combining Euro-flavored sophistication with a Yank's love of the big gesture, tracks like "The Last One Alive," the anthemic single "Free" and "The Gates of Rock and Roll" transcend their influences (which range from obscurities like 1980s rocker Simon F. to Depeche Mode and even metal) and stake out new stylistic turf of their own. Lyrically, rather than the usual neurotic whining we've come to expect from so many "alt-rockers," Crosby deals with both light and shade: universal themes, such as the exhilaration of personal freedom and the duplicity of false friends, predominate, again stressing VAST's common touch. If rock 'n' roll has a future, it's in the hands of people like Jon Crosby. — Johnny Walker (Black)

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