March 12, 2009

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Superdrag, Industry Giants
Thirty Tigers Records, March 17

Along with Weezer, the late-’90s-version major-label-ized Superdrag was part of the let’s-get-moronic backlash to grunge, bathing the close of the millennium in a combination of Foo Fighters, Replacements, Weird Al and the sound of someone with a porcupine stuck in his larynx — their 1996 hit “Sucked Out” contained the most fingernails-on-chalkboard vocal effect since Joe Cocker’s “You Are so Beautiful.” Like Cocker, Superdrag singer John Davis had alcohol issues and went into exile for a while, so, aside from a couple of rarities-or-whatever collections, the last official Superdrag album was 2002’s Last Call For Vitriol. Surprisingly, Industry Giants is the next logical evolutionary step from the 2002 record in that there’s less country and more studio-mode Ramones in its DNA. The emphasis is on a heavy vibe more stoner-rock than emo; although opening tune “Slow to Anger” does have its wingnut side, there’s a faraway, motheaten, Pennywise-like coat to Davis’s vocals that’s nostalgic for their early self-discovery days. Similarly, in place of country strumming, quiet-loud-quiet dirge “Live and Breathe” offers a vision of ’60s Brit-pop that’s more po-faced than what they’ve tried in the past, while “I Only Want a Place I Can Stay” could have been an Oasis B-side.

There’s a notable bottom line: if there were an alt-rock museum, this album would be in the spot where you’d find the Tyrannosaur skeleton. The thing’s a pristine specimen of what the genre was meant to look like, i.e. punk-rock in a perfect disguise masquerading as pop. AEric W. Saeger