After the glammed-out Hundred Flowers packed it in last year, local power-pop quartet the Melismatics officially became the Twin Cities' finest purveyors of "rock 'n' roll about rock 'n' roll." You know the type: songs that tell you what rocking is, how to do it, and when (big and loud, sexy, and right now, respectively). Like the Hundred Flowers, whose "Spread the Disease" proved to be both their last single and their best, the Melismatics even wrote an anthemic appreciation of rock's pathologic glamour, 2003's "The New Infection." (And the two bands' connection runs still deeper: Melismatics frontman Ryan Smith and Flowers bassist Kat Hixon were married last fall). Such self-defining gestures aren't really new, of course; "rock about rock" has been feeding on itself for so long, all that's left are teeth and love handles.
Still, a hook is a hook is a hook, and Turn It On, the group's follow-up to The New Infection, has more barbs floating in it than Lake Minnetonka in July. It's also about as challenging as that walleye-stocked reservoir--that is, not very. But that's exactly what makes the Melismatics a rock band's rock band. It's okay to suffer lyrics like "Here in the waves of sound/I believe in rock 'n' roll" (from the opener "Waves of Sound") since that's exactly how concertgoers feel when the band's pounding eighth notes are making ripples inside beer cups. The recorded version isn't quite so infectious as "Waves," and this record is even less so than The New Infection. But smart rock is all about dumb fun, and at its best, Turn It On is both.
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