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Every group runs its course. When that happens it's sometimes a good idea for the lead singer to check out. OD, car wreck, shooting (either accidental or deliberate) or plane crash have all been done. Death usually spares the band a long decline that ends on the county fair circuit. It also allows the record label to foist unreleased material and b-sides on mourning fans. Then, of course, there's the big cash-in from the "Greatest Hits" package. It works for everyone, except perhaps the lead singer.

Of course, death might strike some as extreme. For those types there is another course of action when a group finds itself at the nether end. Start a new one. Like death, this is a dicey proposition. On top of that, it usually yields lesser results. But you have to try. It's no good spending the rest of your life on the beach or hanging from the arm of your pop-songtress wife. Case in point, Bush's Gavin Rossdale. His group, Bush, put themselves on the Alt. Rock map with '94's "Everything Zen" and followed that with "Razorblade Suitcase" which contained the hit "Swallowed." A third album, "Sixteen Stone," also did well. From there it got tough going. However, Rossdale did manage to meet and marry Gwen Stefani (No Doubt). They got engaged on New Year's Eve, '01 (how romantic!) and were married on September 14th, '02 at London's St. Paul's Covent Garden.

With Gwen out pumping her solo career, it must have seemed a good idea to form a group. So Rossdale (vocals/guitar) launched Institute with Chris Traynor (guitar), Cache Tolman (bass guitar) and Charlie Walker (drums). Traynor (who toured with Bush in their final years) split his time between Institute and Helmet. And there was another Helmet connection. Many of the songs on the group's '05 debut, "Distort Yourself," were produced by Helmet frontman Page Hamilton.

Institute Discography

Of "Distort Yourself," Rossdale says it has got "a paranoid edge to it." That may be. The titles suggest as much; "Wasteland," "Secrets & Lies," etc. But paranoia doesn't always equate to entertaining. Institute plays stripped-down Rock that will not drive anyone out of the room but won't dazzle them either. The group is competent and the songs passable.

"Bullet-Proof Skin" is both the debut single and lead off track. It's one of the album's better efforts. Obviously, everyone (the group, producer and record label decision makers/screamers) heard that too.

Stefani makes a backing vocal appearance on one of the album's more memorable tracks, "Ambulances," with guitars sounding like sirens. But her contributions are so minimal they have no impact. If you are going to use your famous wife, it might be a nice idea to exploit her talents to the max.

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