These Washington, D.C., teenage popsters debuted their stripped-down indie pop/rock with this 12-song debut in 2002. The Pocket Rockets' trio of bassist Carmen Clark, guitarist Lili Schulder, and drummer Mat Lewis impressed Teenbeat Records owner Mark Robinson enough to release Love or Perish. Lewis' brother, Ryan Lewis of Kindercore Records, arranged the album to be recorded in Athens, GA, with Bill Doss of the Olivia Tremor Control and the Sunshine Fix fame. The disc begins with the spunky "Bella Lugosi," with Clark and Schulder trading vocal duties, and Clark's heart-on-her-sleeve narrative "Song for Giraffe Boy." Doss makes an appearance on backing vocals on "A Film By Shooting," which perfectly showcases the bandmembers' stop-and-start compositional style, and their willingness to switch from youthful recklessness to more soft, tender moments midsong. On "Glam Saved the Day," the trio embraces its unique approach to songwriting, never settling for conventions, loosely adding instrumentation around Clark's lyrical soliloquies. "Sleep Is the Enemy" is an instant trip to teenage carelessness, favoring late-night adventures to sleep, which is immediately contradicted with the next track, "Fast Asleep in Tintern." The closest the Pocket Rockets get to a riot grrrl sound is on the edgy and confrontational "The Youth Can Have It All," while the melodic "Deva Station" is easily their most impressive instrumental effort, with Clark's vocals in top form as well. The disc comes to an end with the spaced-out diary of a teenager, "T.W.A.T.," which includes not-so-subtle references to Internet and pop culture terminology. As the band's musical skills catch up with its imaginative instincts, the band's execution will certainly become more inspired. If anything, the disc shows a band with an abundance of spirit, and a refusal to polish its cathartic and personal approach. Clark's relentlessly blunt lyrics impress throughout for their unapologetic candor and occasional awkwardness. With Schulder's artwork gracing the cover of the disc, Love or Perish is a true D.I.Y. effort, with the help of the band's strongest supporters.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Cramer