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CD REVIEW

Mass. Hysteria: Mistress and Men

Mass. Hysteria, a reggae/ska band based in Brookline, is all about the power of two; in this case, it's the stunning difference of two years since the band's debut, "Waiting for the Day." On "Mistress and Men," the eight-member group fine-tunes everything that was great about that first album: up-tempo reggae, a good balance between vocals and instruments, and impressive pacing. Singer Rachel Eliot, in particular, has come a long way. Her vocals sound confident and throaty, much like you'd expect if Gwen Stefani collided with Linda Perry. Don't take the No Doubt comparison too seriously, though. Mass. Hysteria makes heartfelt ska and reggae true to the music's 1960s roots, while still putting their stamp on it with garage-rock guitar riffs and offbeat lyrics. (When's the last time you heard a reggae song allude to Billie Holiday and Ernest Hemingway?) On "Smear Campaign," a strong contender for alternative-rock radio, the band's Berklee College of Music pedigree shines in the rock-tinged arrangements. And "Zombie in Memphis" is a fleeting juggernaut of stray trumpet blares and horror-flick screams. It's the type of song that would suit a high school prom night from the 1950s . . . if it took place in a John Waters film.

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