Pegboy

Cha Cha Damore

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While Pegboy has now made the same record five times (since their formation subsequent to ace guitarist John Haggerty's departure from Naked Raygun), Cha Cha Damore is (paradoxically) a big surprise. Easily their best, this new work almost treads on such hallowed ground as Raygun's 1986 classic All Rise. Enjoying a thick, magnificently mixed production from old-days pal Steve Albini, this Chicago institution has also composed tunes that blast like a best-of, with one super-charged, melodic thruster rocket after another. The tempos serve the songs perfectly rather than rushing singer Larry Damore's gut-spilled singing, and Damore himself has improved, adding convincing anguish and unguarded feeling into his big-lug voice. Ex-Raygun bassist Pierre Kezdy's steely edge is further ferocious: even his old favorite J.J. Burnel of the Stranglers would karate-kick for such a ripping, trebly sharpness. And if you can name a drummer with bigger chops and quick-firing speed than ex-Bloodsport and Effigies mauler Joe Haggerty, big John's little bro, then to quote the Yardbirds, "Mister, you're a better man than I." Of course, it's the elder Haggerty's six-string roar, 13 years vintage, that continues to define both this band (as it did Raygun, who themselves re-formed with Kezdy but sadly without Haggerty) and the older, vaunted "Chicago sound." Between that roar, the better songs, and Albini's inspired efforts, it's not writer-hack cliché to suggest that this quartet has invested a decade to achieve a decisive work. Even the cover of Cheap Trick's 1978 Heaven Tonight staple "Surrender" (which Raygun also used to do live) sounds like Pegboy wrote it, blazing a new trail in an ancient but still fertile forest. Do not dismiss Cha Cha without fair listen. A solid band has made an LP that combines 1977 punk's dense pound with '90s post-punk's modern feel, with hooks embedded in each riff, hacksaw chord change, and chorus.

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