CD Reviews

The Pressure
Things Move Fast
Elastic Records

Sometimes mean, crusty rock critics canchange their minds. The Pressure's live shows never did much for me—ordinary, chaotic alterna-rock affairs, I thought, that usually left me with a feeling of is-that-all-there-is? indifference. Potential, sure, but theirs was music that needed either the room to grow, or at least grow on me. Turns out that all they needed was the focus and discipline that usually comes packaged with some extended studio time, and Things Move Fast is that payoff: a great, crash-bang garage-pop rock & roll record that was clearly influenced by the Sonic Youth/Pixies/Nirvana school. The benefits of working with producer Alex Newport (who has helmed projects by At the Drive In and Knapsack) are most obvious on "Outer Space," a fuller, more defined, less quirky take than the one that appeared on last year's Hey Bro 4 compilation. They resurrect the quiet-loud-quiet thing on "The Trouble With You," yet guitarist Ronnie Washburn's snarlingly bitter yelp makes you forget how tired this device had become. "I'm Alright" is another winner, a zesty vocal catch game between Washburn and bassist Dana James that blends '60s pop with '80s underground-punk thrash. The most intriguing track, though, is "The New Commodity," in which drummer Jason Thornberry pounds out a proto-disco beat that backbones what sounds like the hit single Sonic Youth never made, or at least a lost Nirvana tune. Lyrically, the Pressure don't think too highly of the Man—both "Inside Out" and "Account Executive" lash out against robotic corporate-think (you can tell they're sick of their day jobs). "This Morning," though, is what really convinces you that the Pressure are a deeper outfit than what you first might think, a dreamy, ethereal acoustic ballad that's equal parts the Stones' "Sister Morphine" and Sonic's "The Diamond Sea." Whatever the Pressure's future holds in the wake of Thornberry's recent assault (see story at right), the band can at least be proud of this album. We can only hope they make another. (Rich Kane)

The Muffs
Alert Today Alive Tomorrow
Honest Don's/Fat Wreck Chords

You're dropped by Warner/Reprise after three critically acclaimed albums. You're enthusiastically scooped up by a subsidiary of Fat Wreck Chords, a small (but phat, with indie cred) label in NoCal. Do you make your Sgt. Pepper? Of course not. You re-create your first album with a vengeance, making big waves in your newfound pond. Is this a bad thing? No fucking way, considering that your debut album is on nearly everyone's 10-best list of the god-awful '90s. Such is the saga of the Muffs, and if you've never heard them, then Alert Today Alive Tomorrow is a great intro. Starting off with the fantastic, there's "Prettier Than Me," which according to the bio (note to label: less glib quotes, more lyrics), took 10 years to write, and it is probably the most delicate thing to ever emanate from leader/OC native Kim Shattuck; "Jack Champagne" (who knew Kimmy could write such killer beach-party soundtracks?); the balls-out "Another Ugly Face"; the hypnotic "Clown"; and the Who-ish "I Wish That I Could Be You." Particularly intriguing is "Your Kiss," which finds our heroes experimenting with diminished chords and octaved leads. The rest is your standard high-quality, co-ed rock, but . . . okay, Muffs, we know you're great, and by all rights, you should be where Hole is now, and this is your most resilient lineup ever, though would it kill you to put in a call to Phil Spector? He works on spec now, doesn't he? Go off and make your masterpiece; we know it's in you, and we're all waiting. In the meantime, the rest of us will enjoy this solid effort from America's premier garage punks—all recorded for one-quarter the price of their final major-label album! (George Fryer)

 
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