Gravity's a Bitch

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Though the band name and album title make it sound like the Starvations' Gravity's a Bitch is yet another entry in the endless procession of garage punk releases, there's something different and more interesting going on here. The L.A.-based band's third album is more like 1981 in Manchester than 1976 in the Bowery or 1965 in Orange County: singer Gabriel Hart has a dramatic voice and favors lyrics of romantic desperation and personal dissolution, and the songs have a haphazard, disheveled quality, with Ryan Hertz's bass usually the most prominent element in the peculiarly mixed arrangements. Where the earlier albums by the Starvations took the blues-influenced punk of the Gun Club as one of their primary inspirations, the cavernous sound and shambling arrangements of Gravity's a Bitch sound more like some of the poppier offshoots of the Fall, like the Blue Orchids or Marc Riley & the Creepers. (The post-punk, pre-country early-'80s incarnation of the Mekons is another excellent touchstone, especially on the antic full-speed gallop of "Where Was I?") The 11 songs rush by in just under half an hour, but rather than sounding unsatisfyingly hurried, Gravity's a Bitch is a varied and surprisingly complex album that refuses to overstay its welcome.

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