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Backstreet Boys: Never Gone **

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Rossiter Drake*

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BACKSTREET BOYS: Never Gone
(Courtesy of SF Weekly)

Backstreet’s back, all right, and though the boys would argue that they were never gone – hence, their cleverly titled comeback – there’s no denying that Never Gone instantly becomes the best answer to the oft-asked question, Whatever happened to Howie Dorough? Indeed, the Orlando, Fla., quintet has returned, their pristine harmonies intact, their newfound maturity marked by the weighty presence of guitars, strings and pianos. Not that the album is devoid of sugary, larger-than-life beats: “Just Want You to Know” should be sufficient to whisk diehards back to the glory days of the late ’90s. But here, the Boys sound more like Matchbox 20, their spry and slightly sophisticated brand of bubblegum replaced by something meatier but badly undercooked. They’ve traded in their polyester clown suits for sensible threads, and their latest singles won’t be must-plays at middle-school dances. A good thing? Not necessarily.

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