Flop and the Fall of the Mopsqueezer!

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More than most outside the city would have realized in the early '90s, Seattle's music scene was all over the place, as this delightfully brash and fun debut album shows. Like a more punk-edged Cheap Trick (though certainly Willoughby can't measure up to Robin Zander's amazing pipes, but has a good set of his own), Flop takes pop hooks and loud riffs to the masses with good humor and energetic playing. With production mostly by Young Fresh Fellows/Fastbacks guru Kurt Bloch, who obviously knew a good time when he saw it, Mopsqueezer skips from one highlight to the next. Including the Kinks' "Big Sky" as a cover choice is actually a touch misleading -- Village Green Preservation Society this isn't, either as a concept or as quite so mannered a style, though it's still a fine romp through a solid Ray Davies number that's not out of place. There's as much metal riffing as melody at play on Mopsqueezer, it's just that the latter always keeps the former in check. Johnson is the secret weapon of the band, both a good timekeeper and able to fire in some sly flash here and there without stealing the show. Check out his steady, solid punch on the heavy groove of "Morton the Venereologist" or the galloping rhythms on "Ugly Girl Lover" and "Parasite" (not a Kiss cover). As a guitar team, Willoughby and Campbell give out all the chunky feedback one could want without sounding at all like they want to be new Pearl Jam members, even pulling off some great psych guitar squalls on "Asthenia." Certain Willoughby himself sounds far too open and cheerful to stereotype, even when some songs can obliquely address deeper subjects than expected. Certainly most grunge-gloom mongers wouldn't include the varying speed fragment "You Would Be Right" just for kicks.

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