Grandaddy: “The Rugged and Splintered Entertainment Center”
Over repeated Casio tinkles playing an organ-grinder/boombah-stick oompah, and opening appropriately enough with a fake warp (unless that’s just my own worn-out turntable belt fucking up), a lonely where-oh-where-are-you-tonight campfire hymn to man’s best friend—namely, the trusty cabinet containing your TV, VCR, crappy receivers, eyesore knickknacks, and gallons of spilled soda: “It stood there proud through the years of bad movies and never laughed or passed judgment on you at all.” Yet another technology-as-tradition tourist trap in the Modesto combo’s beloved Broken Household Appliance National Forest, with even more holiday-nostalgia wistfulness than their “Alan Parsons in a Winter Wonderland,” yet still with its eye in the sky. The flutey B-side by Dallas’s pseudo-mentally-handicapped Up With People revivalists the Polyphonic Spree refreshingly waits for their mouths to open before offering much evidence that they’re the worst band in human existence.
Tsar: “Straight”/”The Creature in Disguise”
Their pad is very messy, they got whiskers on their chin, they’re gone on powerpop music, and they always play to win. Or so the A-side tries to convey, though these L.A. formalists clearly mean to beg the straightness question merely by raising it. In their first songs to surface since their worthy 2000 debut album, they pound and swing the boogie harder and sweeter than ever; both tracks would fit real well on Cheap Trick’s All Shook Up, so Tsar’s guitars could offer quite the machismo lesson to Weezer, whose T-shirts their “Tsar the Rock Group” slogan recalls. Even more blatant: quotes/references to “Pretty Vacant,” “Bat Out of Hell,” and “I’m Straight” by the Modern Lovers, who meant the word differently. Then, on an almost-as-flawless flip side alluding to adolescent bodies metamorphosing monster-like, “My Generation,” the Move’s Shazam, and BÖC’s “Godzilla.” Or maybe the Dolls’ “Frankenstein.” Or Edgar Winter’s. Do the crossword puzzle yourself for once, bucko.
Federation X: “Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman”
Here’s your real rhinoceros-riffed man’s man’s rock, though. And just like when Metallica covered fellow Budgie classics “Crash Course in Brain Surgery” and “Breadfan,” this pigfuckish Northwest Corridor power trio aims to make the prehistoric metal even more hetero, by ignoring the early-’70s Welsh Sab-times-Zep lava-pit legends’ frankly lovely predilection to prance through placid gardens of Eden and anticipate Geddy Lee’s falsetto. Which sadly means eliminating too much eccentricity : Budgie, after all, were a band with a song named “Hot as a Docker’s Armpit”! Not to mention “Napoleon Bona, Pts. 1 & 2″—relevant here, given how Steve Albini razor-blades the song in half (“à la James Brown”) between two sides. Gratifyingly, he doesn’t suffocate the vocals for a change. So 33 years after the number’s composition, its megaton ma- chine-churn and quaaluded “owh owh owh” break could still destroy Panzer divisions.
Village Voice, 20 January 2004