"New Garage". It sounded so fresh, so rejuvenating two years ago, but now, in 2003, before the so-called genre could really make a serious dent in the charts, it's starting to feel like we've already hit the high water mark. But The D4, a quartet of youngsters from New Zealand, are determined to invade North America and the UK, to nab themselves a piece of that rapidly vanishing pie. Their new album, 6Twenty, has begun to be touted as The Next Big Thing (the UK press has been salivating over this band for close to a year), as critics try to latch on to yet another band whom they hope will save the increasingly stagnating pop music scene. Try not to be fooled: The D4 are nowhere near the geniuses that some ecstatic critics make them out to be. However, when taken at face value, it turns out that this bunch of Kiwis are a pretty good little rock 'n' roll band. Besides, any band who opens their album with a song titled "Rocknroll Motherfucker" can't be all bad.
The thing about The D4 is, they're awfully plain, totally gimmickless. There are no skinny ties, no shag haircuts, no matching clothes, no schtick whatsoever, and therein lies their charm. It's just good, albeit unspectacular, old fashioned, boisterous party music that owes more to Deep Purple than The Velvet Underground. Like their stoner rock brethren Fu Manchu, it's all riffs we've heard before, and there's the same kind of limited-range vocals by singers/guitarists Jimmy Christmas and Dion, but it's all delivered with more of a raucous, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion freneticism, with a bit of Andrew WK's lunkheadednes thrown in for good measure.
No matter how jaded you might try to be while listening to this, it's hard not to give in to the Big Dumb Rock that's on 6Twenty. "Rocknroll Motherfucker" is pretty self-explanatory, a fast, pummeling tune that lifts the opening riff from Motley Crue's early hit "Live Wire". "Get Loose" is a great stoner rock gem, with lyrics that make Bachman Turner Overdrive look downright poetic ("Get up / Get out / Get loose"), while the very silly but highly enjoyable "Party" features some great work by drummer Beaver. The rest of the album continues in that same raucous vein, as "Come On", "Running on Empty", "Little Baby", and the very cool "Rebekah" gleefully rehash every hard rock cliché from the past 30 years.
The album really starts to peak on the song "Ladies Man", which uses an ultra-heavy combination of tuned-down riffs and distorted bass with a Uriah Heep-style organ (much like their fellow New Zealanders, The Datsuns), and shows us that they can actually manage to write a good lyric: "You can't see me/Cos I'm a man/D-E-C-E-P-T-I-O-N." "Exit to the City" is a rather straightforward driving song, which basically mimics Fu Manchu, but The D4 do it very well, with total conviction. 6Twenty is also peppered with some well-chosen cover songs, including "Invader Ace", originally done by seminal Japanese guitar-punk band Guitar Wolf, a great version of Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers' "Pirate Love", and "Mysterex", by little-known band The Scavengers.
Although 6Twenty has tons of contagious energy, the production on the album is a bit lacking. When you listen to the record, you instantly think of a band like Fu Manchu, and you realize how weak the sound is compared to the California rockers. The bass and drums are buried in the mix, and while it's not bad enough to ruin the album, it's painfully clear that the band needs a monstrous, powerful stoner rock drummer like Brant Bjork to really give the band some muscle. But again, that's only a minor complaint. The D4 have put out a fun album that doesn't deliver more than it has to. They're fun, they're harmless, and they're genuine. Now if only kids would ditch such corporate punk farces as Good Charlotte in favor of these guys, then maybe we'd be a little closer to the rock 'n' roll revolution we've been craving for nearly a decade.