In God Bless the American Plague, the band – The American Plague, that is – walks that fine line between 'raw' and 'poorly produced.' It's quite the collection of energetic and passionate punk-infused rock tracks, albeit with a few missteps.
Things get off to a rowdy start with 'Sympathy for the King' and 'What If,' two fist-pumping anthems as aggressive as they are catchy. '9 Times Outta 10' slows down a bit, with a laid-back chord progression and a melody that evokes Bruce Springsteen. 'War Song' is similarly relaxed, though gloomier.
'Highwayman' also stands out, topping 3 Doors Down's 'Superman' drum beat with Western-cowboy-sounding drums and vocals.
Despite all God Bless the American Plague has going for it, though, the record's second half loses steam. 'Burn it Down' spends 40 seconds building a rather sleazy, swinging beat, only to switch meters and riff on a few clichés. And the band includes an inexplicable cover of Motorhead's 'Ace of Spades' that sounds like…well, like The American Plague singing 'Ace of Spades.'
Singer Jaw even tries to morph his voice into Lemmy's (an oddly common phenomenon in the Motorhead cover world; see Crucified Barbara's take on 'Killed by Death'). The Plague folks might get a kick out of playing 'Ace,' but there's no reason to slap it in the middle of God Bless.
Also, some listeners might find the mixing a little distracting. It's no shocker for such a low-fi recording to sound a little muffled – it lacks the high-end clarity tech geeks call 'air.' But producer Seva is a little too intent on routing one guitar through the right speaker, the other through the left, and using basically no overdubs. When one guitar takes a solo, the whole mix sounds lopsided; all the high notes come from one side, the low notes from the other. Not good in this age of iPods.
The bottom line, though, is that The American Plague has turned out a garage rock record that doesn't pander to current garage rock trends. It sounds like a band truly uninterested in what's popular – not like a band trying to show it doesn't care.
Robert VerBruggen (http://www.therationale.com) is Assistant Book Editor at The Washington Times.