Agent Orange

This Is the Voice

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The long-delayed second Agent Orange album isn't quite Living in Darkness part two, though it's little different from that album in many ways -- same nuclear-strength attack that's equal parts surf and punk intensity, catchy and threatening all at once. That said, it's a strong album on its own, with the small changes in the basic sound meaning a lot in context. For one thing, Palm stretches his singing voice more here than before, adding more of the reverb that helped flesh out earlier songs like "Somebody to Love." The results are delights like the opening two numbers, the creepily paranoid "Voices (In the Night)," and the equally psychotic poppy rave-up "It's In Your Head." His strong semi-spoken declamations still rule the roost in general, but tweaking the basic style just a bit pays off here as a result. Musically, the band nails things as always and then ups the ante just that little bit more, as with the angular, new-wave-without-sounding-like-it verses on "Fire in the Rain," or the fragile acoustic/Byrdsy guitar on more than one track. Levesque acquits himself nicely on bass, Miller pounds the skins just as well as the first time around (his rolling intro to the lengthy album centerpiece, "In Your Dreams Tonight" is a nice standout moment), and Palm, as always, is an underrated guitar god, combining power, precision and hooks just so. The long-asked question, courtesy of the When You Least Expect It EP, as to where part one of "Bite the Hand That Feeds" went gets answered here; unlike the instrumental second part, part one is a bit slower and has ruminative lyrics to boot. This never got quite as much as attention as Living, but it wasn't from lack of talent.

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