The Mooney Suzuki - Alive & Amplified

WRITTEN BY
Mikael Wood

The Mooney Suzuki
Alive & Amplified
Columbia

Duringthe salad days of Rock Is Back version 1.0, New York's Mooney Suzukionly had the trash-talking Star Spangles for competition as theboomlet's lamest outfit. "In a young man's mind it's a simple world,"frontman Sammy James Jr. sang on 2002's Electric Sweat, "There's alittle room for music / And the rest is girls." In one cringe-worthysound bite (and one derivatively scruffy sound), James drowned out hisband's high-octane crunch by identifying neo-garage rock as nothing buta bratty boys' club.

Meanwhile, over in Red Pill-ville, thethree Los Angeles-based songwriters/producers known as the Matrix were challenging Linda Perry as the go-toguys for teen popsters in search of live-band crackle. Signature hitslike Avril Lavigne's "Complicated" and Hilary Duff's "So Yesterday"were mini-masterpieces of high-wire, post-pubescent tension, and their Swanjob on Liz Phair's latest redefined the indie-world makeover.Miraculously, the Mooney Suzuki recognized that sugar-sharp epiphany iswhat garage rock's supposed to be about, so they hired the Matrix tohelm their follow-up. The band has since claimed that the process was a"war," but the result is the sweetest, cleanest grunge ambrosia sinceUrge Overkill's 1993 major-label bid, Saturation.

It's not just the producers' neon-hard sound that brightens Alive & Amplified,though that helps (Jack White couldn't improve the title track'ssteel-wool riffs and helium-voiced squeals with all the ancient mixingdesks in Detroit). Rather, the Mooney Suzuki have transcended retreadscruffiness to storm the gates of '70s-kitsch Valhalla. "New YorkGirls," a photocopy of a photocopy of a song Brian Wilson left in asandbox, shoots from sleazy boogie-guitar intro to honky-château verseto triumphant chorus to a cappella bit complete with cheesyabove-the-head handclaps. "Naked Lady," a power ballad as over-the-topexcellent as any by Tenacious D, keeps piling up lighter-wavingsignifiers but wisely climaxes before it collapses. Two songs, "LegalHigh" and "Love Bus," even start with the same killer riff beforediverging into equally creamy centers. Sometimes the genuine fake isall the real you need.

Grade: B+

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