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Reviewed by Kit Burns

Waxapples/Glitter & Grime

Just when you think you have Waxapples pegged, they surprise you.

Glitter & Grime is an apt title for a record that is both dirty and beautiful. Guitars crunch and roar in trademark post-grunge style but are then boxed in delicious pop candy that shouldn’t mesh with the racket surrounding it. Somehow the rock and the pop live in peace; in fact, they have wonderful chemistry together. “Forget You” is a pointed break-up song that sounds like Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots fronting the Foo Fighters. “Over Again” is power pop with a serrated edge. And, after that, you think that you have predicted where Waxapples would venture from there.

Not so fast.

“Cheap” echoes the New Wave thrills of vintage Blondie (or, for a more recent comparison, try No Doubt) while “Hollywood” and especially “Jackson” recall the liquor-laced L.A. punk rock of X. Towards the end of the record, Waxapples are trying on all sorts of shoes, from the spare folk of “Look Out” to the ’80s spandex metal riffing of “Tush.” It’s all quite delightful, especially the vocal interplay of Brian and Jamie Sims Coakley.

http://www.waxapples.com

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Reviewed by Kit Burns

SMUG/Freshly Stained

Given SMUG vocalist/bassist Bret Helm’s reported touring experience with Public Image Ltd. in the mid-’80s, I was expecting something a little bit more angular and post-punk with his own outfit, SMUG. Certainly that influence can be heard on a few tracks, such as the neo-Goth stomp of “Passing You By” and the mohawked funk of “They Never Read the Book,” but SMUG simply cannot be put into a single category. Freshly Stained sounds like the work of more than one group; its only consistency is really Helm himself, who can equally pass for Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys or Dexter Holland of the Offspring depending on what the song calls for.

With punk in such a sad state of decay, it’s a relief to hear innovation, versatility, and a sharp-tongued sense of humor in the genre again. “Shoulda Wrote a Ballad” is a piercing attack on the music industry, a biting satirical comment on how having a generic love song can take you to the promised land of Top-40 radio. Of course, I’m writing this just after hearing the horrid “Hey There Delilah” by the Plain White T’s on a supermarket sound system for the millionth time, the very definition of what Helm is singing about. “3 States 6 Days 1200 Miles” and “It’s Me” are reminiscent of Devo’s herky-jerky moves but given a sonic toughness.

http://www.smugband.com

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