Dios (Malos') First self-titled full-length was an ambitious collection of stealth pop mastery. It called to mind greats like the Beach Boys, the Beatles, and occasionally Neil Young (a cover of Young's "Birds") or Elliott Smith ("Just Another Girl"). Even if the album's hooks and melodies didn't immediately lodge themselves in your brain, they'd find their way in with time. But that was back when the band just went by Dios, before Ronnie James Dio served them with a cease and desist order, citing potential confusion between Dios and his outfit, Dio (unlikely), and before co-songwriter Kevin Morales left the band.

Dios (Malos), the band's again self-titled sophomore long-player, doesn't achieve the positive effect of Dios, but more unfortunately, listeners are subjected to lyrics—choruses even—like: "I get high/Don't know why/I get high/So do I," or "I love you till the end/Psych—I'm just kidding/Cause I hate the things you do." With the exception of a few cuts, (Malos) largely fails to deliver on the potential suggested by its predecessor. Hooks don't quite catch, melodies fail to infect, and songs build only to digress. What's most frustrating about (Malos) is that these Hawthorne, California, boys can play. Everyone here handles their instruments with skill and charisma, and Phil Ek's crystalline production captures them as a talented bunch. This time around, though, the ingredients don't make for quite as compelling a recipe. The O.C. soundtrack people are gonna be bummed.

editor@thestranger.com

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