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The Moffatts

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"This thing will shock people." That's heavyweight producer Bob Rock's appraisal of The Moffatts' striking new album, Submodalities. And, hey, we're not about to argue with him.

A bold stylistic shake-up for the band, Submodalities is indeed a bit of a shocker. But only, really, if you've forgotten what it was like to grow up. Identity is never stable, no matter what your age. It just happens that the four teenaged Canadian-born brothers who make up The Moffatts -- elder Scott and triplets Bob, Clint and Dave -- are currently at a point in their lives where identity is particularly malleable.

They're still figuring out who they are, just like everybody else on the planet. The only difference is The Moffatts have to do their growing up on stage and on record.

So, yeah, with its amped-up guitars, lush Brit-rock textures and a sometimes soft, sometimes squalling sonic adventurousness that'll completely obliterate any preconceptions you might have had about the band, Submodalities doesn't sound like "a Moffatts album."

But what, exactly, does a Moffatts album sound like? The energetic pop-rock act that made a worldwide splash on 1998's prophetically titled Chapter 1: A New Beginning -- which sold more than two million copies worldwide and went almost double platinum here in Canada -- bore little resemblance to the popular kiddie-country outfit that first emerged from Nashville during the early '90s. And you can bet whatever the guys choose to do next will mark another leap forward from where they are right now on Submodalities.

"It makes perfect sense to us," says Dave of the album title. "It means 'anything to do with a visual change in image.' Clint found it in a book, 'Using Your Brain For A Change'. We should be able to use this title for the next couple of albums, too."

Submodalities' punched-up, noisier approach is, more than anything, a result of The Moffatts' changing musical tastes. These days, the band is name-checking artists like The Beatles, Nirvana and Radiohead as favourites. The mingling of those influences with their own ever-developing songwriting talents (The Moffatts write or co-write almost all of their material) -- not to mention the formidable studio presence of Bob Rock, who's previously produced massive albums for such superstars as Metallica, Bryan Adams and Bon Jovi -- has yielded a crunchy, but resoundingly tuneful collection of tunes on the new record.

The first single, "Bang Bang Boom" -- already a No. 1 hit at Top 40 radio and on the retail singles chart in Canada -- combines stick-in-your-head immediateness with a more straight-ahead rock bite. That perfect balance between hooks and viscera surfaces again on cuts like "Typical" and the vaguely glammy "Life On Mars."

Submodalities' varied program also tak