Most bands that look to rock & roll's past for their sonic inspiration tend to write lyrics that lean in a similar direction, but thankfully, Jarrett K. of Vancouver's Tough Age is more imaginative than that. On their self-titled debut album, Tough Age take a rough and ready approach to sounds of the 1960s, mixing up surf music and garage rock, filtering them through first-era punk, and coming up with a sound that's echoey and evocative while still coming off tough and full of sinewy attitude. But even though the guitars echo and buzz, Jarrett seems less concerned with cars, girls, and beer than dealing with his internal angst ("I Waste Too Much Time on Myself"), grumbling about downtown hipsters ("Cocaine Vouchers"), expounding on life's possibilities ("Open It Up"), and exploring psychedelic imagery ("Sea of White"). Jarrett's clear but full-throated vocals and clever, high-impact attitude is a solid match for Penny "Agamemnon" Clark's surf-informed guitar work, which infuses the style's sunny sound with a cool, exploratory undertow (there's as much early Velvet Underground in her style as Dick Dale). And the rhythm section of bassist Lauren Smith and drummer Chris Martell drives this music forward and keeps it on track whether these songs are loping along at midtempo or roaring out in fifth gear. At its best, Tough Age sounds like it's roaring out of some lost dimension that's both past and present, sailing in a time machine powered by the sounds of cheap guitars used well; this could pass for a dream or a nightmare depending on your own outlook, but most of the time, Tough Age make it sound pretty amazing, and to both the head and the heart, these folks stand out from the run of the mill garage punk acts of the new millennium.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming