The great paradox of punk rock is that fans love it because it's fast and loud, but for the folks playing it, fast and loud in and of itself is only interesting for so long, and most (though not all) worthwhile punk bands eventually find themselves moving into more stylistically varied territory a few albums into their career. Houston's Something Fierce are no exception to this principle; while their first two LPs found them cranking out smart and capable old-school punk with stylistic debts to the Clash and the Buzzcocks, 2011's Don't Be So Cruel is something different. Something Fierce haven't forsaken their allegiance to punk rock, but these 12 songs display a greater stylistic sophistication than the music on There Are No Answers or Come for the Bastards, with the pop hooks being given more room to move in the group's melodies and acoustic guitars and keyboards providing some added flavor and texture to the arrangements. This music is smarter and more carefully crafted than Something Fierce have attempted in the past, but it's no less passionate, and there's plenty of energy and purposeful anger on display; vocalist and guitarist Steven Garcia remains a forceful presence even with the tempo turned down a bit, while Niki Sevven's strong, melodic basslines and Andrew Keith's steady, no-nonsense drumming give this music a solid foundation that keeps it rooted, wherever it chooses to go. Don't worry that Something Fierce have slipped into post-punk doldrums on Don't Be So Cruel; the Clash are clearly still their role models, but they've moved on to the more ambitious approach of London Calling or Sandinista!, and they have the talent and the ambition to make their music work on a broader canvas. Hopefully they're smart enough to avoid making their own Combat Rock a few years down the line.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming