Easterhouse sounds so much like the Chameleons on Contenders' opening track, "Out on Your Own," that the credits need to be double-checked. As with the Chameleons, Easterhouse likes to set a mood, often a somber one. Andy Perry's dour vocals and his brother, Ivor Perry's driving, shimmering riffs summarize the golden years of English post-punk; the moody atmospherics of the Chameleons, the angry folk-rock of New Model Army, the summery jangle of the Smiths -- they're all here. What Contenders doesn't have are enough songs that are worthy of being heard again. Although the crackling energy of Contenders easily knocks out Easterhouse's languid second LP, Waiting for the Redbird, it still falls short; the album becomes increasingly less interesting as it unfolds. The initial three tracks on Contenders -- "Out on Your Own," "Whistling in the Dark," and "Nineteen Sixty Nine" -- raise expectations for the rest of the LP; sung and played with the relentless enthusiasm of a young band unleashed in the studio for the first time, they'd make a sensational EP. Unfortunately, Easterhouse has a tendency to meander, and sluggish songs such as "Lenin in Zurich," "To Live Like This," and "Estates" drag the album down. Moreover, Andy Perry's voice is buried beneath the mix; consequently, his political lyrics are not always intelligible, draining them of the power they probably had on paper. Contenders is only half as good as it could've been.