September 30, 2002 12:00 PM

Tonic (Universal)

“Kiss me for believing/ Love me now for always knowing/ When to let you go,” Tonic frontman Emerson Hart sings in his nuanced, heart-wrenching baritone on “Count On Me (Somebody),” a ballad as melodic and radio-ready as the band’s 1997 No. 1 single “If You Could Only See.” It’s Hart’s earnest lyrics and soaring choruses, set against a country-tinged blend of guitars—a bit of steel here, a bit of mandolin there—that make this the group’s strongest album to date. But while there are plenty of three-minute love songs, the L.A. trio doesn’t forsake other emotional territory. The desolate “Let Me Go” is punctuated by pangs of melancholy. And the politically charged “Irish,” an impassioned story song about Ireland’s freedom fight, shows just how much Tonic has going on in its Head.

Bottom Line: Drink up Tonic

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