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The Volebeats | Mosquito Spiral (Third Gear)
Initially pegged as an alt.country band following the mellow back porch rusticana of their Sky And The Ocean and Up North albums, it seems that the Volbeats have a few other tricks up their collective sleeves as well as a healthy disregard for genre assumptions. Opening with the sunny, aching guitars of Radio Flyer, you'd be hard pressed to find any country touches at all. This is pure power pop, exalted harmonies, a breathless rush and a hook that stays with you throughout the day. There's a certain retro simplicity about this sound, reaching back to a time before drugs made music interesting; a cleaner, more innocent sound. Not Here Not Gone recalls the glory days of the Smithereens' first album, continuing the pop thread but the next track, I Tried To Tell You, is a Honky Tonk heartbreaker that sits next to the pop tunes uneasily, like a redneck at a love-in. Yet it all works. It shouldn't but it does. There's a compulsive quality to these songs that strips down your critical assumptions and reminds you why you listen to music in the first place. Example: the glorious Beach Boys / Husker Du homage I Just Want Someone To Love (For the Summer) - immediately you're in an open top car in the bursting sunshine and the world is just fine. Singer songwriters Jeff Oakes and Matthew Smith are the core of the band and Smith's Bus Stop is the highlight of the album, a yearning alt.country number that's reminiscent of Neko Case's South Tacoma Way. I Don't Want to Cry Tonight is what the Ramones would have sounded like on acid and love instead of speed and punk while First Love Never Dies is a reverb drenched take on the old country standard. All over the place, yes - but engagingly so.