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Tsar's self-titled first album from 2000 is a bit of a glam pop/hard rock hidden treasure that still sounds fresh and thrilling years later. Loaded with hooks, humor, and innocent charm, and coming across like the starry-eyed child of Cheap Trick and Sweet, the record was inevitably enough of a flop to send the band into exile for five years. Band-Girls-Money is Tsar's comeback album, and as nice as it would be to say that it is on par with their debut, the record can't help but disappoint in comparison. If you set aside the comparisons and judge the record on its own merits, what you are left with is a decently exciting and fun slice of punk-pop. The group has upped the tempos and energy level. Singer Jeff Whalen mostly sounds ready to tear heads off here, as if the stars in his eyes have turned to daggers. Tracks like "Band-Girls-Money," "Straight," and "Startime" are tough and lively; "Superdeformed" rocks like a less-gloomy Jimmy Eat World, and "Wanna Get Dead" fairly bursts through the speakers in a blast of fever. Apart from the bouncy and lighthearted "The Love Explosion," the album has little of the innocence and teenage spirit that the band had before -- not surprising given their history, but still a bit of a letdown. There are so many bands in 2005 that play the same kind of "sort of pop, sort of punk" sound that Tsar can't help but sound unoriginal. Granted they are better than most of the bands aiming for that sound, but there really isn't much on Band-Girls-Money that will impel you to put the album on. Especially if you have Tsar handy.

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