Every once in a while a band comes along that just makes you smile. Permanent ME is that kind of group, with all the flamboyant swagger of a Cheap Trick, the sense of fun of the Go-Go's, and the charm of the Romantics. But before the band commits mass suicide, be assured that although Permanent ME may boast the spirit of these groups, they sound nothing like any of them. In fact, their influences are fairly subtle, more a nod to general genres than any specific bands. The poppier side of rock definitely left a mark, as did the juttery stop-start rhythms of post-punk and their modern proponents (Franz Ferdinand, anyone?), but so did punk and new wave. Melody driven, but without smacking you in the head with overly showy hooks, there's a brightness to their sound but a shading to the production that posits them somewhere between indie and pop. "Allison" is the obvious point of entry to After the Room Clears, a track initially included on Permanent ME's Dear Virginia EP, and now spun off this set onto a single, an exuberant, tempo twisting number with a splendid singalong chorus. Album opener "Until You Leave" is just as strong, but more rock orientated, and featuring an even more dizzying chorus. There again, every song within has its own charms, be it the chiming guitars that illuminate "Heartattack," the keyboards that sweep across "By the Time," the rousing harmonies of "Blackjaw," the evocative mood that underpins "4 A.M.," the yearning for home that wraps around "NYC," the power that electrifies "Christine" or the pop-punk perfection of "20 Years." Like their music, Permanent ME' lyrics too are meaty, with sharply drawn vignettes that rumble with emotion.
A superb debut, and if this album doesn't make you smile, it must be time to refill that Prozac.