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July 7 - 14, 2000

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**1/2 Dogstar

HAPPY ENDING

(Ultimatum)

The LA-based trio Dogstar are famous for one thing, and one thing only: their bass player is none other than actor/major dude Keanu Reeves. As a result, the band have elicited a fair amount of somewhat unfair loathing from critics. True, Dogstar might not be touring behind their second album without Reeves on bass -- but without Reeves it's hard to imagine that anyone would regard the band's somewhat radio-friendly, melodic, punk-shaded guitar pop (think latter-day Goo Goo Dolls or soft-serve Foo Fighters) as even remotely offensive.

Happy Ending is actually Dogstar's second album; the first -- 1996's Our Little Visionary -- didn't make it into US stores because the label they were on, Zoo, collapsed before it shipped. The new disc is hampered by some limp production. But the mainly slow-tempo'd songs here -- ranging from the strings-and-mandolin-accented ballad "Washington" to the heavier, pulsating, Pearl Jam-esque tune "Alarming" to a sentimental cover of the Russell/Bramlett-penned Carpenters' hit "Superstar" -- are more engaging than annoying. And Reeves's bass playing is hardly the focal point. That would be singer/guitarist Bret Domrose, who possesses a rich, raspy voice and the mixed blessing of fronting what will forever be known as Keanu Reeves's band.

-- Linda Laban

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