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Clorox Girls / The Hospitals - This Dimension / I’ve Visited the Island of Jocks and Jazz

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Artist: Clorox Girls / The Hospitals

Album: This Dimension / I’ve Visited the Island of Jocks and Jazz

Label: Load

Review date: Oct. 31, 2005

Whither punk rock in 2005? It’s a brand-a-band world, with most participants bringing one gift to the table bearing no wise men in sight. Doesn’t hurt that some bands are just a hair’s breadth away from average-ville. All it takes is that tiny grain of influence to carry their music over to a more respectable crowd, and for that influence to remain intact throughout their music.

The men of the Clorox Girls know this and duct-taped that notion down, so as not to let it fly away. Their brand of melodic punk rock could be needless and disposable if it weren’t just catchy enough to rate, and they weren’t so good at bringing that across. Talk about influences on the sleeve. This Portland trio cops the title of a song by Red Cross (before they became Redd Kross) for their name, and lo and behold, so does their sound – energetic, sing-songy Banana Split bop with no songs breaking two minutes and change. So why is it such a difficult record to get through, where said Red Cross EP is so repeatedly enjoyable over two decades later? Innocence, really. Writing the rules to pop-punk while still having something to be angry about because you’re 14 years old and the world’s unfair, it’s 1981 and guys who will soon become the Circle Jerks are stealing your sound as you write it is a historically viable and semi-legendary notion. Plus it’s fun to be a kid like that. Clorox Girls’ take on it is breathless, non-stop, airtight and hermetically sealed – the songs are fun, riff-filled, and catchy, but they blew their noses of the snot that made their first album that much better. Now they’re bored. “Nothin’ to do but pop codeine / Oh yeah,” singer/guitarist Justin Maurer bleats out in his best off-hand Ramones warble, as his band bops in time behind him. It’s a telling lyric that symbolizes the professional complacency that keeps them out of the ring. This is the kind of band Lookout would have signed in its mid-'90s nadir, when the market was strong. Now it’s the kind that makes a 22-minute album feel like a month.

But was there ever a market strong enough to withstand the Hospitals? No time like the present, I guess. City-mates with the Clorox Girls (if not sonic brethren), the songs on the band’s sophomore album I’ve Visited the Island of Jocks and Jazz share the same concepts of packing in the energy with a mind for brevity, only they end up sounding like the former played backwards at 33 RPM. Paying no mind to rhythmic tightness or decorum, this duo plows their way through less than a half-hour in the reverb tunnel. If you scrape the shit off them, there’s pop to be had here – the storming, tsunami-surf of “She’s Not There,” the intermissive singalong of “Rich People,” the rock ‘em sock ‘em pound of “Airplanes There.” It’s no surprise that John Dwyer, late of the Coachwhips, is a guest on this record and a one-time Hospitals member, as the slinging, sliding, scuzzed-out noise has his likeness’s face pushed halfway into its pliable body. It’s also not surprising that the amount of effects and noise they generate outstrips any sort of musical effort, but that’s 2005 for you. This album also feels like a month has passed from beginning to end, prompting me to coin the phrase “agepunk,” K-holed missives that make you need dentures and feel like Dorian Gray inside Martha Raye. As they continue to cram square pegs, both bands end up somewhat unique and friendly-sounding, but when the veneer of familiarity wears off, don’t say you weren’t warned.

Clorox Girls are signed to the grade-A Smart Guy record label. Check 'em out here: www.smartguyrecords.com

By Doug Mosurock

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