San Francisco quintet Vue have been steadily building a name for themselves over the past three years. While bands like The Strokes, The Mooney Suzuki, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been stealing the hearts of hipsters everywhere, Vue have been doing their own thing over on the other coast, releasing two albums of slick, confident garage rock for Sub Pop Records before they were signed to a major label deal with RCA Records. Their RCA debut full-length album, called Down For Whatever, comes out in August, but in the meantime, we have Babies Are For Petting, a quick, five-song teaser EP to tide us over while we wait.
With noted producer Don Was at the helm for two of the tracks, it’s a little obvious that Vue are preparing for a serious stab at the big time. Opening cut “Look Out For Traffic” combines a nasty, gritty Rolling Stones rhythm guitar riff with some very cool, contrasting lead accents that chime and echo, as if The Smiths’ Johnny Marr was playing Replacements covers with Mick and Keith. Singer/guitarist Rex Shelverton sneers his lyrics like a confident frontman as the rest of the band pummels away for the next three minutes. “Hey Hey Not in Here” is nothing more than some very well done, skanky rock ‘n’ roll. Far too many bands these days are passing off their flaccid, lame Nuggets imitations as good, unpretentious garage rock, but few do it well as Vue does here on this excellent, two and a half minutes’ worth of snarky attitude.
Unfortunately, that’s about as good as the CD gets. “Babies Are For Petting” is tolerable, but it’s nothing more than an empty Black Crowes imitation, as the band just goes through the motions with their recycled Stones riffs, uninspired melody, and Shelverton’s passionless-sounding singing. The stripped-down live performance of “Find Your Home”, the title track from their 2001 Sub Pop album, redeems the EP somewhat, with its pounding, minimal rhythm section, guitar screeches, distorted harmonica, and Shelverton’s white boy blues crooning. The downtempo “It Won’t Last”, which was originally released on the band’s 2002 UK Pictures of Me EP, closes things on more of a morose note, its lazy, boring chorus making you wish for more of the fiery passion of the first two tracks.
If the straight-outa-dullsville title track is merely an aberration, and if Vue builds on the potential that “Look Out For Traffic” and “Hey Hey Not in Here” boast in spades, then we could be in for a very cool album from Vue by the time the summer months end. In the meantime, you might as well save your hard-earned money and wait a couple months to see whether Vue can live up to their promise, since 60% of this EP is nothing more than throwaway tracks and leftovers. It’s best to hold out to see if these guys are the real deal. If you can’t wait that long, there’s a sadly overlooked new album by Grand Mal that does the whole Stones-go-garage thing much more expertly.