February 21, 2007


Filed under: Hype,Music — ihggy @ 11:07 pm

[Alive; 2006]

The self-titled debut of Detroit band SSM fits right in with the Alive Records not-quite-garage rock throwback tradition. On SSM, the band takes a relatively authentic and straightforward organ-driven garage style, tears it apart, and reassembles the pieces using heavy 70s dinosaur rock riffs, synthesizers, electronic beats, and noise as adhesives. The result is one of the most interesting and eclectic rock and roll shake up records of the past few years. At its high points, SSM sounds like it could have been made at any time within the past few decades. This is pretty impressive, considering the band’s heavy use of electronics. Take, for example, the track “Sick”. It’s driven by an electronic backbeat and a blown-out synth, but it still rocks the same as any number of garage classics. It also boasts another one of SSM’s stylistic flourishes– brief time signature shifts.

The record’s undeniable timeless classic, however, is the tune “Dinosaur.” It combines something close to Spector-ish production, a creepy but incredibly groovy bassline, an even creepier organ, synth strings, and jagged edged, damaged guitar riffage and ends up being one of the most strangely catchy memorable and exciting tracks of the past couple of years. Throw in the stomper bridge with a great guitar solo from the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, and it’s impossible not to win. Entirely modern, yet somehow ageless.

Though SSM is at their best when they strike this balance, the straight-up rock tracks are typically very good too (the first two tracks especially). Indeed, the record’s only real missteps come when they go too far in the electronic direction. The real clunker here, “Ain’t Love”, uses cheap sounding beats and annoying synths and sounds to obviously “dancey”. Like Stylex or something. It doesn’t feel genuine at all. It feels like the band was like, “well dancing is pretty big right now with the kids, and we have all of these synths, let’s make a dancey tune and get an audience.” I’m not buying it! To be fair, not all of the mostly electronic tunes are bad. “Put Me In”, while very dancey, is never obvious, and has a great groove.

And even when the band is making some productions mistakes, the songwriting quality remains very high. Seriously, SSM is a real steamroller, almost all of these tracks hit. If the band continues to write such good songs, and continues to synthesize their electronic and rock and roll tendencies, they could create some stone classic albums.

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