Chug - Sassafrass

Chug makes perfectly representative music for Flying Nun's second decade -- if nothing is as suddenly new or different as earlier reinventions of emotional, powerful rock, both the label and many of its newer bands still deliver the goods. Alf Danielson's fuzz bass may kick things off, but it's guitarist/keyboardist Norma O'Malley who gets the first words in on "Evel Knievel," a nicely angular piece of wigginess that sets the tone of Sassafras. Chug clearly sound like a product of their environment, fusing both catchy, almost power pop hooks (at least at times) with all sorts of frazzled guitar and musical crashes & changes, not to mention occasional blended harmonies. There's the rough accessibility of bands like the Jean Paul Sartre Experience or the 3Ds on the one hand, and the hints of crazed guitar madness from the Xpressway bunch on the other. Even "Golden Mile," with what sounds initially like a motorik groove a la Stereolab, has a stronger sonic connection with Snapper. Other bands are clearly in the sonic stew as well -- Sonic Youth squalls crop up more than once -- yet while Chug might not immediately stand out, they bring a good energy to what they do, and are able to put their own stamp on things well throughout. Danielson and O'Malley make for a good vocal team and each can hold their own individually -- and while Danielson sometimes buries his vocals, when speaking up he has some nicely winsome tones. O'Malley is clearer in contrast, sounding perhaps a touch more engaged as a result, while her organ work adds a lovely swathe of warm sound to the proceedings. Highlights include the attractive psych-tinged "Long Haul," with O'Malley contributing some very Doors-like keyboards; the stomping, very heavy "Witches"; and the great, feedback-laden groove of "Mustang."

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Thanks to Jay Beck for uncovering this one!