Lately, cutting-edge rockers have engaged in a musical debate over how much to revive underused old sounds and how much to actively engage with the new. Consequently, all the ideological positioning makes it difficult to hear new records without mentally filing them somewhere on the continuum. The Rosebuds' debut album The Rosebuds Make Out stands apart, since its power-pop-informed rock isn't strictly retro or futurist. The North Carolina band has a few sonic tricks–some violin drone on the charging-but-elegiac "Back To Boston," a chorus of "whoa whoa whoa"s on "Drunkards Worst Nightmare"–but most of the clever arrangements are situationally inspired, not statements of purpose. Singer-guitarist Ivan Howard and his co-writer, keyboardist Kelly Crisp, clearly believe that big hooks and catchy choruses sound better when played loud and sloppy, and their exuberance supersedes questions of influence. "Wishes For Kisses" has a classic '50s slow-dance structure, but filtered through The Rosebuds, it comes out slightly warped and even more like a teen anthem. The rollicking, bratty "Kicks In The Schoolyard" quotes The Smiths in its lyrics and apes The B-52's in its feel, but like the similarly brisk "My Downtown Friends" and "Boys Who Love Girls," it's mainly just fresh and invigorating, ideal for punk clubs and short car rides. The Rosebuds Make Out is clearly meant to recall the first Modern Lovers record or Marshall Crenshaw's debut, and though it's not quite in that class, it's still pretty amazing. Just as vital is Constantines' second album Shine A Light, which is arguably engaged in the new-rock discourse, given the Ontario band's simultaneous embrace of classic-rock bravado and splatterpunk nightmarishness. Singer-guitarist Bry Webb sounds like he's been shouting across a room for an hour and can now only hoarsely grunt and squeak while the rest of his quintet zooms hard, sweating up front so as to give an excuse for the lengthy, bass-led instrumental interludes to come. The group frequently wanders into still valleys before chugging back up, properly balancing bounce and punch–Constantines may be the best band since Archers Of Loaf to marry intelligence and brute force. Shine A Light can be practically celebratory, as on "Young Lions," which opens with surging guitar akin to a ramshackle version of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart." It can also knock listeners down, as on the harsh-edged bounder "On To You," which starts with kicks and coos and ends in rasp and accusation. As Webb breathlessly intones lines like "I'm learning to survive / on earthworms and houseflies," and drops obsessive references to pigeons, dogs, fire, and poison, Constantines generates a jarring-but-tuneful vision of desolation. It's music for an overheated, off-the-books hideaway, with its doors barricaded to stave off impending doom.
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