If all of the saccharin sounds and ludicrously groomed and costumed studs coming out of Orlando aren't exactly your cup of Kool-Aid, there is an alternative sort of boy-group revolution coalescing out there. It's more rooted in guitar-driven rock than vocal-group pop and therefore not something you need to feel embarrassed about liking if you're a guy. I'm thinking of young, fast and scientific groups such as Supergrass, Travis, even Hanson and now Tsar. This youthful L.A. foursome reminds one of the bands that sprang up on Sunset Boulevard in the early 1970s, around the time Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars descended from their UFO and changed the musical paradigm. There's lots of hot guitar hooks and cool choruses, plenty of teen mythologizing as well as the sense that the present is exciting and the future even more so.
Tsar comes out swinging with "Calling All Destroyers" (
HREF="http://media.addict.com/music/Tsar/Calling_All_Destroyers.ram">RealAudio excerpt), an energetic Clashlike call to overthrow the established order (especially lame radio), mixing slashing guitar with future shock synths. The group makes revolution sound as fun as a day at the playground, just as the frontline punks and New Wavers did back in the late '70s.
Boasting its Ramones-ish title, "I Don't Wanna Break-Up" is a speedy,
love-wracked grabber that recalls fellow L.A. glam-poppers Redd Kross. The biotech-minded sci-fi epic "MONo STEReo" (RealAudio excerpt) the capital letters spell "monster" has a great midsong backward countdown and finds them pronouncing "stature" with a long "a." "Disappear" (RealAudio
excerpt) announces that "I'm in love" and celebrates that
exhilarating state without resorting to corn.
Each of the 10 songs on Tsar is short, sweet and punchy. The album was artfully and economically produced by Rob Cavallo (Green Day, Goo Goo Dolls), who makes sure the quartet doesn't overstay its welcome. Indeed, the album is over and done before you know it, clocking in at a vinyl-friendly 36 minutes and leaving you hungry for more. All of this means you simply have to press "play" one more time. Isn't it great to feel young again?