Rock At The Top

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Culminating the progress that rock has made against pop this year, three dudes who write their own songs and play their own instruments are outselling Britney Spears with their new CD. For many people over 14, that sounds like an answer to a fervent prayer. But it's unclear whether the hard-rock band Creed's new album Weathered (Wind-up), which debuted at first place on the Billboard 200 by selling 887,000 copies in its first week, is salvation or the devil in disguise.

Creed is certainly better than just about any teen-pop act. Vocalist Scott Stapp, 28, has a vibrato like a mounted assault rifle, and guitarist Mark Tremonti, 27, who doubles as bassist on this record to replace ex-band mate Brian Marshall, bangs out tried and true arena-rock chord progressions with precision. But the canned mysticism of the lyrics almost inspires nostalgia for the professional, if dispassionate, songwriting of producer Max Martin and other behind-the-scenes teen-pop studio wizards. "Let's give love to all," Stapp intones on the final track, Lullaby. Let's give thesauri to all songwriters incapable of dreaming up more original ways to voice that sentiment.

Like its chart-topping hard-rock colleagues in Staind, Creed may prove to be a lesson in Rock 101 for the Britney generation, a bland Big Mac to wean the kids off musical Gerber. But after a few bites of what this band serves up, experienced buds will crave more exotic fare--like Pearl Jam.