Superdrag – Last Call for Vitriol (Arena Rock Recordings)

Don’t make the mistake of assuming Superdrag are an indie rock band. Sure, their fourth long-player, Last Call For Vitriol, may be homemade but it certainly doesn’t sound it. No, what Superdrag are is a classic rock band. And really, they probably always have been. It’s just that they carried that post-Weezer, buzz-bin, power pop tag around with them for so long that it’s taken 3 years or more to shake it off.

Last Call, their second record for Arena Rock, is the liberation Superdrag needed. It’s the same distinct Superdrag sound at heart but it feels like they’re more comfortable in it. They’ve shed the wall of sound guitar harmonies which were largely the work of Brandon Fisher and since adopted a more riffy two guitar interplay between John Davis and new guy, Mic Harrison. Bassist Sam Powers, who’s been with the band since 1999, has no doubt helped transform the band from mod buzz band to jeans and t-shirts classic rock. His contributions to Last Call are clear nods to classic rock — “Stu”‘s Who-like chord riffs; “I Can’t Wait”‘s “yeaaaah”s and “mmm..girl”s.

John Davis is as sharp as ever on the album’s easy stand-out “The Staggering Genius.” It’s another of those hits that Elektra wouldn’t have heard. With its big riff and chugging chords, this is the “Lighting the Way” for this summer. Turn it up and grab another Pabst. Then there’s “Baby Goes to Eleven” — the kind of easy single that you guess Superdrag could write in their sleep (this time featuring guest Bob Pollard). “Feeling Like I Do” with its Blue Oyster Cult-esque vocal line is another classic. At least half the album is ready-made not for “The Buzz” radio stations but for “The Rock” radio stations.

When the Drag does slow it down (like on the country-fied “Safe & Warm” or the clear nod to the Beatles, “Her Melancholy Tune”), they make sure to blast out of it with another riff rocker (“Remain Yer Strange” and “Stu” respectively).

Last Call doesn’t feel as down as their first post-Elektra record, In the Valley of Dying Stars. It feels warm like a rock record is supposed to — like dozens of rock records sounded in the 60s and 70s and few do today. Sure, it might not all be your kettle of fish (or mine), but heck, that’s all right. It’s finely done. It’s the sort of record they should make every year or two for as long as they want — unforced, easy and personal.

–TA