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The Busy Signals - The Busy Signals

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Artist: The Busy Signals

Album: The Busy Signals

Label: Dirtnap

Review date: Dec. 5, 2007

The Busy Signals have got the two guitars, the sexpot in charge, and not a lot of bad vibes, but this candy definitely comes from side of the dish with the sourballs and jawbreakers. Blondie comparisons are going to dog any band with those ingredients, so let's get that out of the way. It's both apt and dismissive. What they really share is a dedication to confection. The main thing with this sort of Rock 'n' Roll is hooks – lots of ‘em coming from different angles, but neatly charted territory. Between the lead guitar tradeoffs, everyone singing on the refrain, vocal volleys, power chord thuds and the harmonies, the Signals stay busy indeed. These kids never resort to a ballad or extra instruments for flourish. They don't even fall back on the hand-claps until the penultimate number (and “Uh-Oh” is one of the best here).

This quick spinning top keeps on spinning on for 12 tracks in 24 minutes, and conforms to all the other specs expected. The only topic: I don't get you. They work both meanings. They wisely avoid tough-cookie girl stuff, slapstick boy stuff, or faked detention room rage. Tracks like "So Pointless" drowns everything with chunky leads, so far forward that even when everyone joins in on the chorus, they're still barely audible. "Ring Ring Ring" has plenty of headroom for the singing, which is good 'cause it moves through enough melodies for three songs.

After a few acclamatory listens, the historical comparisons don't matter much. Contemporary comparisons matter less. There's hardly a shortage of rapidfire popsters with shaggy bangs being pushed out by major labels. The songs that come along with the package are clogged with production gloss, pseudo-rap breakdowns and leftover grunge tropes. Whatever promise the material had in demo form gets crushed like a can of Fresca in the path of a Hummer. This is a band that's confident that their songs can stand on their own.

Dirtnap Records has caught a large fraction the living specimens who have mastered this sort of pop barrage. The label first emerged with the Exploding Hearts, who arrived with a lineup of songs that seemed legendary even before a tour van tragedy sealed their fate. The Epoxies, the Marked Men, the Minds and the Ends have come up with long-players that please from the go-go-go to the goodbye goodbye and still sound like they've never heard a Green Day song in their lives. If there's a shortcoming to this debut, it's that there isn't any one track with a hook that towers above the rest. The whole set is single minded.

By Ben Donnelly

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