The phrase

Hard rockers M.I.C (Made in China) are back with a fresh line-up and brand new album, "3rd Degree". Tommy Burke takes over the sticks whilst Uchida "Yugi" Juji and Dave Smith take up the bass and keyboard duties respectively.

The phrase "jack of all trades, master of none" has never been so fitting before it was applied to M.I.C: they pride themselves on producing diverse music, incorporating aspects of hard rock, punk and even metal, as well as musical influences from the UK, America, Canada and China. However, they are far from excelling at any one sound; whilst hard rock is obviously at the core of their being at no point does it feel particularly comfortable. I was on pins throughout the entire album, unable to relax and enjoy the music the quintet had produced.

The lowest point of "3rd Degree" came courtesy of track 5 'My Baby's Going'. Whether it was a bizarre intention or not remains to be seen, but the solo vocals, courtesy of Yvon Serre, were hoarse and out of tune, made even more obvious during the harmonised sections with Angela Renzetti. It does make me wonder, if they can't even get it right in the studio, what chance would they have live on stage!

I really struggled to follow this album; whilst I applaud their attempt to instil some diversity into their music, the result is a lack of direction. I also found myself on more than one occasion cringing at Serre's tuneless vocal contribution ('It's Been A While' another track where Serre's awful, completely irritating voice ruins what is otherwise a perfectly decent song). Whilst the instrumentals are creative in places and there are promising moments, the whole ensemble failed to keep my attention for the right reasons; if I hadn't tried so hard to work out what the point of this band was, I would have switched off much, much earlier.

I would be interested in hearing M.I.C with a more consistent sound and a much better vocalist; whilst the skill of the instrumentalists carry this band, there's only so far you can go with a useless front-man.

Check out M.I.C at your peril; they can be found at www.myspace.commadeinchine or www.cdbaby.com/cd/microck3