Blue Rodeo is one of those jangly guitar, alternative-rock ensembles that clogged record shelves and some airwaves through the ’80s in the wake of the success of R.E.M. The band’s only claims to distinction are they’re a) Canadian and b) bloodless, even by comparison to other less-than-passionate bands of their ilk. Casino is their third major-label album; the melodies are stronger, and the songs as a whole have more force than on their first two, Outskirts and Diamond Mine, but it’s difficult to get excited about progress this minimal. Yes, there’s a hook or two (in, for instance, ”Til I Am Myself Again”). But tepid attempts at boogie (”You’re Everywhere”), love balladry (”Montreal”), and down-and-dirty rock & rolling (”Trust Yourself”) undercut the band’s occasionally okay tunes, and the bits of rock & roll wisdom the songs impart sound received (”You got to trust yourself/And don’t believe in any more lies”). Guitarists-singers-songwriters Greg Keelor and Jim Cuddy aren’t without talent, but their approach to their muse is far too calculated; they’re just going through the motions. The pair earnestly rhymes ”I’ll always be there for you” with ”point of view” and ”feel a little blue,” as if they were the very first ones to do it, and use rain as a metaphor for breakup. Sheesh. There’s a nice exception: ”Two Tongues” has a groovy guitar sound and a big, brassy chorus. You can even sing along, if you wish. But you won’t be saying anything. C

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