The Datsuns

Outta Sight/Outta Mind

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When the Datsuns released their first album in 2002, it was in the wake of the garage punk explosion kick started by the White Stripes and the Strokes, so this New Zealand quartet was lumped in as fellow travelers -- an understandable miscatogrization, but one that doesn't quite describe what the band is. There's barely a trace of garage or punk in the Datsuns. They're a '70s heavy rock band to the core. That was unusual when The Datsuns hit the streets in 2002, which garnered attention since it was, for want of a better term, a novelty, but within a year, there was a flood of bands that partied like it was 1973, even if nearly all of them were born closer to 1983. Many of them turned out to be better than the Datsuns, too, particularly the AC/DC-worshipping Jet and the cheerfully ridiculous Darkness, who trumped the New Zealand quartet in two significant ways -- they could write songs and riffs. That's may be a little unfair, since there are moments on The Datsuns where the band makes some pretty invigorating rock & roll, but two years later on their second album, Outta Sight/Outta Mind, they are a spent force. They're still stuck in the past, but where they could occasionally recall Deep Purple on their debut, they sound as turgid as Cactus throughout Outta Sight/Outta Mind. Former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones does his best as a producer, giving the album a clean yet heavy sound, but the problem lies with the quartet, who flail about on 12 songs as they ape classic heavy rock without replicating it. Much of the problem is that the group is far too busy, relying on skittering single-note riffs when big power chords would not only hit harder, they'd be more memorable, instead of jumping around too often to create an impression. Lead singer Dolf De Datsun does make an impression with his thin, high-strung caterwauls, but he lacks flair. He, like his lead guitarist, Phil Datsun, is a faceless journeyman, and now that there are more hard rock bands -- both ironic and not so much so -- on the market in 2004, the Datsuns no longer seem like a fresh novelty. They seem like a garden-variety hard rock band, one that would have been generic and forgettable in 1974, and one that is generic and forgettable in 2004.

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