Saturday, April 25, 2009

Superdrag -- Industry Giants

Superdrag -- Industry Giants (Superdrag)

Knoxville’s finest are back together and they have NOT mellowed with old age. For that matter, they haven’t changed much at all. The biggest difference on this album from prior LPs is that John Davis cedes the microphone to a couple of his colleagues on some tunes. This may have been a miscalculation.

Still, if you are a fan of this band at their most rocking, and they were certainly one of the heavier powerpop outfits of the alt-rock era, you might want to get this. Any fan will be hit with a pleasing familiarity in Davis’ melodies and vocals.

The album bursts out of the gate showing off the band's guitar power and how Davis throws in little melodic wrinkles to make it more than just a sonic assault. On "Slow to Anger", Davis sounds kinda angry, his voice a bit raspy. This falls somewhere between Cheap Trick and Channels (the most recent band from J. Robbins of Jawbox fame).

It is followed by the languid "Live and Breathe". The song fades in with just a strummed acoustic guitar and Davis singing angelically, "I don't know the first thing about you" and after a few more lines, heavier guitar backing comes in. The contrast between the dreamy melody and the rough texture of the guitars is winning. Meanwhile, I'm guessing that this song shows that Davis, who put out a solo Christian rock record, is still singing about faith. Whatever it is, it is devotional and this track alone makes the reunion worth it.

This one-two punch had me hoping that Superdrag was gravitating back to the more versatile and experimental approach of the band's second and best album, Head Trip In Every Key. And the yearning melody of the mid-tempo "I Only Want a Place I Can Stay" kept my hopes up.

But the album can't sustain this quality and it falls into the familiar sounds of the post-Head Trip albums. This is reliable and enjoyable music, but the songs are more about the overall sound than big hooks or memorable bits of lyrics.

A couple of other songs stand out, the blistering "Aspartame", which has stinging lead lines and gallops like Secretariat out of the gate, and the Cheap Trick-y "Cheap Poltergeists", one of Tom Pappas' two compositions on this disc.

Although this is yet another Superdrag album that's merely good, and not great, I will say that the energy and force and passion on display here are striking. Most bands don't even release one great album, and Superdrag has accomplished that. And listening to this new one, I still think they aren't that far away from another one. I want them to keep rocking out, but don't want them to forget that they can do even more than that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

great review