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'Thinking' requires more than talent

First things first: Teddy Geiger is clearly talented, perhaps even prodigiously so.

On his debut effort, "Underage Thinking," he handles guitars, bass, keys, programming, vocals and the writing or co-writing of the album's 12 songs. His clear view of his own talent, memorable melodies and ability to stay "on topic" add up to an artist with equal portions of ambition and talent. "Underage Thinking" has "hit" written all over it.

That's part of the problem, though. Geiger would've been better off making a few mistakes, following a few flights of fancy down blind alleys, reaching beyond his obvious talents in search of something still exceeding his grasp. "Underage Thinking" has one fatal flaw: It's far too flawless.

One can hardly hold Geiger solely responsible for the perfectly rounded edges and middle-of-the-road hospitality offered by his first record. Just as he did in the short-lived but delightful television vehicle "Love Monkey," Geiger has a right-hand man in real life. Billy Mann is Geiger's producer, writing partner and, it seems clear, biggest fan. Sadly, he has helped Geiger make an album that is about as threatening as low-fat yogurt. It motivates, mildly, but it doesn't move.

In the plus column, if the gloss were to be stripped away, it would be more readily apparent that Geiger is a strong songwriter. There's no denying the eminent urge to hum tunes like the folkish ballad "Love Is a Marathon," the power-pop tinged album opener "These Walls," or the heart-in-throat weeper "Seven Days Without You." Geiger, presumably with Mann's help, knows his way around a chorus hook, and every song that made it to "Underage Thinking" boasts a big, fat one. Instrumentally, Geiger and his mates forgo flash in favor of steadfast, journeyman reliability, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing either.

But because it is apparent that Geiger is a genuine talent, not the in-studio creation of some money-hungry Svengali, more must be expected of him. "Underage" has no teeth, and thus, can't chew through the mediocrity of its own production values, which are smooth to the point of annoyance.

Geiger fits firmly into the company of artists like John Mayer, Jason Mraz, Ryan Cabrera, David Gray and, at times, Dashboard Confessional. All make pleasant, guitar-based pop music with mild alternative overtones. Mayer, unique among this company, has broken free of the teen-alterna-pop crowd, delving deeper into his musicianship, immersing himself in the masters who came before him, challenging himself and his audience by demanding that they grow with him or get out of the way.

Geiger clearly has the goods to follow suit. Let's hope he does. "Underage Thinking" is a decent album, but it could've been a great one.

Teddy Geiger

Underage Thinking

[Columbia]

Review: 2 1/2 stars (Out of 4)

e-mail: jmiers@buffnews.com

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