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25 Suaves - 1938

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Artist: 25 Suaves

Album: 1938

Label: Bulb

Review date: Oct. 10, 2002

1938 is an album that should be judged by its ability to rock you. If you're the type who enjoys stripped down, high-velocity post-punk, then you'll probably like what guitarist/vocalist Velocity Hopkins (a.k.a. Bulb record-head Pete Larson) and drummer DJ Party Girl (Fumie, his wife) have created - it will rock you reasonably hard. It's visceral, aggressive, spontaneous rock n' roll in the tradition of Thin Lizzy and AC/DC (yes - Hopkins's riffing does indeed manage to keep pace with Angus). However, one can't help but feel that there is more to rock in the 21st century than its throwback potential. While it is certainly no great slander to say “there is nothing new here,” it can raise red flags.

Perhaps it's too demanding to ask a two-person guitar and drums outfit to break new ground, but a little variety in the drumbeats, obvious power chord progressions, and even the sound of the recorded elements would be nice. There are few to zero guitar effects and Velocity's vocals mostly consist of a shrill yelp. It also doesn't help that the drums are placed low and inconspicuous in the mix. The general effect of the mix is a sonic whitewash…no particular aspect of the recording jumps at you and grabs you. After the first two tracks, you think you've gotten the general idea of what the Suaves have to offer…and then come along the final three tracks, which are good enough to make you scratch your head in confusion.

It's interesting that only song with a real hook and engaging vocal line is buried deep in the album at track 7 - "Saturday" is both fun and hard, the kind of song you want to hear first thing in the morning to get you going. Maybe part of this particular success is the fact that there are two - not just one - guitar parts to the song. It does wonders for filling out the sound (there is nary a bass line on 1938) and adding a different dynamic to the song's character. The penultimate track "Michigan" is a wonderful instrumental piece … and then album closes out with the interesting/divergent "DEA305", the only song that demonstrates any daring in the production room - it's organically-produced noise and feedback loops are welcome newcomers to the Suaves' sonic repertoire. One can only hope that these last three gems are forbearers of things to come from this duo, not remnants of a discarded past.

By Jeff Rufo

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