With Nodzzz and Eddy Current Suppression Ring, good times in vital garage rock are making a comeback. All due respect to Jay Reatard, Times New Viking, and the Columbus Discount crew, but those records’ undercurrents of punk anger tend to limit the joy derived. The real bummer is that the anger, more often than not, dominates the sound. Burying a great pop song in fuck-off noise only exhilarates to the extent that it is meant to; in other words, rather than revel in sound, bands like TNV set up road blocks for the listener. This isn’t meant as a dismissal, or as a request for folks to lighten up and let the songs shine through. As Ben Tausig pointed out in his Crystal Stilts review last week, in considering music as conceived product, such sonic decisions must be regarded as inseparable from the "songs." The junk pop can make for fascinating listening, but I wouldn’t call it fun.
Nodzzz is fun. Fun in the way that the second incarnation of the Modern Lovers and the first Weezer album are fun. Nick Lowe, Billy Childish, Feelies – you name it. The best moments on the album approach that classic garage-pop abandon, only shot through with a present tense ragged aesthetic. Nodzzz isn’t a throwback, but a modern celebration. It’s stunning that there aren’t more bands like Nodzzz and Eddy Current in this sweet spot between numbed revivalism and the noise garage. Other What’s Your Rupture? bands also have some success in this area, but Nodzzz wisely substitute real pop smarts for antic energy.
Nothing on the album really grabs like the terrific single "I Don’t Wanna (Smoke Marijuana)," but that’s probably to be expected. The closest thing to a manifesto here is "I Can’t Wait," with the San Francisco boys yelling about how far away the future is, then repeating "I want to know now" to infinity in the chorus. Like all but two of the tracks, it hovers around two minutes, makes it point, and fades out.
This is the only real issue. At only 16 minutes, the 10 tracks fly by, leaving the impression that not much is really at stake for the group. Beyond the fun, all those classic popsters listed above were dead serious, and they didn’t hesitate to undercut the fun with real (catchy) songs of longing and sadness. Here’s hoping that Nodzzz try to deliver such an emotional wallop the next time out, because they’d doubtless succeed.