Album Review: The Atom Age – ‘Hot Shame’

[rating=7.00]

“This ain’t the place to be” belts out frontman Peter Niven at the very start of “It’s A Mess,” the opening track of the Atom Age’s latest album Hot Shame. He’s only slightly wrong in his sentiment, as the band has crafted a solid collection of riff-heavy rock ‘n’ roll songs, but seems to be a bit out-of-focus, lying mostly with a production style that never quite sounds at home with band’s sound, and at times seems to separate the instruments from one another.

With the band building on its signature sound, too gritty to be power-pop, too candy-coated to be punk, they blend a considerable amount of range and influence into what’s still a straightforward record. From the hard-driving “Ms. Death Texas” that plays through your speakers like a high-speed train, to the gospel-by-way-of Goner Records “Negative Mind,” the six members prove themselves to be masters of their smart, staccato-heavy execution. Drummer John Murgueitio particularly shines, with an angular style that tumbles over itself with purposeful ease.

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The addition of Fred Brott’s Farfisa paves a solid atmosphere throughout the record, a lush counterpart to Ryan Perra’s guitar, which he underplays just the right amount, utilizing a handful of reverb-drenched chords with a mid-range friendly EQ, both nestled up against Kevin Mohn’s basslines. What ends up uneven is the saxophone of Brendan Frye, a ferocious player in his own right, who plays with the same sense of energy as his bandmates. Though it often times becomes indistinguishable from the lower-end guitar riffs, such is the case on “Barracuda,” or when highlighted on “Wasteoid,” the closing track, comes off like a stray Romeo Void track that just happened to be in the same key.

Granted, the saxophone tends to be a hard sell, particularly as a lone brass instrument on a straight-forward rock lineup, and nothing about it’s presence on Hot Shame serves as any sort of distraction. In fact tracks like “Do It Now,” lends itself perfectly to the chaotic whirlwind of sound, ultimately helping it harken back to channeling a raucous, unfettered Isley Brothers track.

In the end, Hot Shame packs a tremendous wallop in a tight 25 minutes, no song long enough to overstay its welcome, and no song out of place. It’s the kind of shout-and-scream-along record that would fit perfectly in-between late-80s Cramps and late 60s-Rolling Stones, one that’s absolutely impossible to listen to at a low volume.

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