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our brief reviews of new releases
29 September 2005
The Muggs, The Muggs (Times Beach) Rating: 8
The Muggs' debut album is a great one. If a band can find that signature classic rock sound of the late '60s and '70s without coming off as too self-serving, then they are on the right track. "Need Ya Baby" resembles Bon Scott trying to pull off Hendrix with Angus Young drawing on everything he has. Big and brawny without being too ballsy, the tune is a great opener. Guitarist Danny Methric and bassist Tony DeNardo is basically one person in this very polished trio. This brand of Southern fried rock the bands like The Black Crowes perfected is heard on the crunchy, meaty "Gonna Need My Help" that The Muggs nail! How a band comes off like a classic rock trio with one album is beyond me, but this is what you have here. The chugging "Rollin' B-Side Blues" is another gem that they weave their way through. And "Monster", driven by the powerful, Moon-like drum effort, shines from start to finish. They just can't do anything wrong. Mississippi Delta by way of Michigan that isn't Jack White? Check out the intro to the classic rock-boogie feel of "Should've Learned My Lesson". More boogie? "White Boy Blues" is a fantastic rave-up. "Said and Done" opens a bit like Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" before delivering more blues rock manna. "If You Please" reverts to British blues rock a la The Yardbyrds. An album that makes you think what the band's fifth album will be like!
Paul Kanter/Jefferson Starship, Blows Against the Empire (Epic/Legacy) Rating: 5
It's reputation laying somewhere in-between "lost classic" and "self-indulgent mess", Blows Against the Empire, the first recording credited to Jefferson Starship is something of an odd duck in the Jeffersonian catalogue. After Jefferson Airplane's meltdown, Paul Kanter recruited seemingly everyone then living in San Francisco to help him out with an ambitious science fiction epic, using the name Jefferson Starship in a (successful) attempt to transform what was a band name into a franchise. Reflecting the shift from the utopian ideals of the '60s to the cynicism of the '70s, the album is not about peace on Earth, but rather a
complete abandonment of it, with all the hippies and the "crazies" hijacking a spaceship and leaving in hopes of finding a better world elsewhere. The music, accordingly, strikes a strange balance between pastoral ballads and free-form space rock, with epic songs sandwiched between short connecting passages. Blows Against the Empire, despite being a concept album, is anything but cohesive as it scatters moments of melodic perfection in the middle of interminable jams and convoluted story-songs. In essence, it
reflects the chaotic nature of the San Francisco scene at that time, undergoing its slow decline: unfocused and meandering. There are, however, some fine moments, particularly Grace Slick's gorgeous vocal contributions (the short and haunting "Sunrise" may be her finest moment as a singer) and the David Crosby/Paul Kanter stunner "Have You Seen the Stars Tonight", which suggest that this initial run of the Jefferson Starship brand had the potential to be a much more interesting band than the AOR-juggernaut that it became.
Opiate for the Masses, The Spore (Warcon) Rating: 6
I don't know if I've ever seen song titles on a rock album as self-aware as these. "Introduction", "The End", "Intermission", and "Interlude #2" all appear on Opiate for the Masses' debut full-length, The Spore -- "Introduction" and "The End" are even proper songs! Opiate for the Masses sounds like a band who got the inspiration for their band name from Tool at least as much as they did Karl Marx. They borrow heavily from Tool, in fact, with a bass-heavy hard rock sound and vocals that croon at least as well as they scream. Such comparisons are inevitable (as well as those with Static-X and other things "nu"), but aren't necessarily bad things. Sure, there's all of the requisite screaming and angst and whatnot, but as the album progresses, development is heard via the softening of some elements of the band's sound. Rather than turning the music into a limp approximation of metal, those slow bits expand the aural spectrum of the music they inhabit, emphasizing the power of the loud bits while betraying a healthy pop sensibility. It's this softening that allows the drum 'n bass-tinged "The End" to be an utterly explosive finish, and puts Opiate for the Masses ahead of much of the slowly dwindling nu-crowd. In other words, don't be surprised if these guys blow up with their next album and "OftM is teh hOTneSS" becomes a mantra of teen message boards everywhere.
Sci-Fi Lovestory, From the Planet's Surface (Lovestory) Rating: 6
Despite the futuristic implications of the band's name, Sci-Fi Lovestory's music is a pretty straightforward form of guitar-fueled power pop. With an acknowledged debt to Superdrag, strong hints of Fountains of Wayne without the quirky wit, and the Replacements without the sharp edges, the songs have a familiar feel without necessarily leaving a deep impression. All the same, there's a strong sense of melody in these tracks, led by Bennett Hirschorn's casual but assured vocals and the occasional Wilson-esque harmony. Hirschorn proves himself to be an able songwriter, and tracks like "Fog", "Home", "Spill", and "Telemetry" are all catchy highlights, showing a promise for future output, but none grabs you just so. It will take a little more emphasis on solid and memorable hooks to stand out in a very self-similar genre, but Sci-Fi Lovestory is one to watch out for in the future.
.: posted by Editor 7:37 AM