The Soviettes' super-good LP II, like the Beatles' Please Please Me, Boyz II Men's Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya, and Willy Chirino's 14 Excitos, contains 14 songs. Thirteen and a half of LP II's songs are played at a brisk pace, as if the group had chug-a-lugged several Big Gulp-sized cups of Moxie soda before showing up at the studio. Which isn't to say that the tempos are absurdly, inhumanly fast, as if the group were hopped up on goofers or some such stuff, but they're fast enough to allow an extra-generous baker's dozen punk-pop songs to be crammed into just over 23 minutes. (What, then, does the "L" in this "LP" stand for? Lickety-split? Lilliputian?) And that's a good length for Moxie-fied recordings to be, since longer high-b.p.m. albums are exhausting, and singles involve a lot of taxing activities such as getting up, flipping records over, sitting back down, remolding one's elegant corduroy beanbag chair, and remembering to change the hi-fi's r.p.m setting from 45 back to 78 after the song is done.
As with other notable quartets, such as the Beatles and Boyz II Men, everyone in the leaderless Soviettes sings, trading leads and ganging up on background vocals, which are sometimes harmonized and sometimes shouted in percussive unison, as with soldiers and cheerleaders and the Ramones. And the writing (also a shared responsibility) is really flipping good, occasionally tossed off, but mostly smart, tuneful, funny, and effervescent but not frivolous. As a big fan of love and songs, I'm partial to Annie the guitar player's "Love Song," but I've got a similar crush on Sturgeon the other guitar player's "Ten," and maybe 11 more that I fancy with less zeal but fancy all the same. Danny the drummer's Fred Schneider/Craig Finn bark is put to good use on "Pass the Flashlight," which has a nicely sung chorus from Suzy the bassist, and a snotty call-and-response verse similar to the Replacements' "I Don't Know." And while we're on back-in-the-day comparisons, II also reminds me of the Undertones, and of high school, too, in that it has all the spirit of a pep rally and all the righteous disaffection of the smoker's pit. Which really is an ideal combination.
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