Mix-Tape Fodder

Notable producer, not so notable product.

When your album is produced by Kurt Bloch (of Fastbacks lack-of-fame) and your music is being touted as "power-pop," then you have a lot to live up to.

Not to give too much credit to Kurt Bloch and the Fastbacks, but it's kind-of like having Beatles-era Paul McCartney produce an album by an unknown band. The expectations are high, so you'd better be really fucking good.

Unfortunately, Les Thugs are just good. Nothing makes them stand out. Their hooks aren't hookier than their best competitors and their songs aren't anything we've never heard before in a catchier form. More importantly, even if we forget the power-pop moniker and Kurt Bloch's involvement, and simply judge it as a rock 'n' roll record, nineteen something is still unexceptional.

Things get off to a promising start on "Henry's Back," a big-sounding, post-grunge, distorto-guitar, almost-but-not-quite-anthemic kind of song. Crests of noise rise, then break apart by the end of the song, wiping away the memory of the almost-but-not-quite-catchy vocal and guitar melody lines that hold the song together. "Side by Side" follows a similar path of familiar-sounding songs that don't quite break through the speaker into center stage. There's nothing wrong with being introverted, even when working within the power-pop vein, but if that's your m.o., you should make sure that you have some depth and interesting ideas, either in the songwriting or the sound of the music. On nineteen something, Les Thugs demonstrate they don't have a lot of either. Although occasionally they come close, as on "The Magic Hour" and "I Was Dreaming."

"The Magic Hour" is minimalist in its grandeur, or perhaps grand in its minimalism. The guitar-drenched music in this seven-minute song closely follows the vocal melody and, because there isn't much of a vocal melody, it plods along, repeating like a rock 'n' roll mantra that effectively uses Neil Youngish guitar solos in its feedback-fueled freak-fest.

Similarly, "I Was Dreaming" works lyrically and instrumentally because of its simplicity. Centered around a pretty distortion-filled guitar riff and a straightforward set of lyrics that talk about dreaming and being a loser, it's a nice little gem of a song.

All in all, a few songs on nineteen something are good for a "what's-new-in-the-rock-world" mix-tape for a friend, but there's nothing essential here.