Whenever You're Ready

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For the follow-up to the previous year's debut Flop and the Fall of the Mopsqueezer!, Seattle's Flop enlists sensational '70s punk-era producer Martin Rushent -- who did 99 percent of Buzzcocks' original works, as well as early Stranglers, 999, Generation X, and so on -- for what seems like a perfect marriage. But, in fact, Kurt Bloch's work on the first album sounds heavier. Without emasculating them, it seems Rushent has polished up the rougher surfaces and given the vocals more prominence in the mix (a common major-label malady, though it's not so bad here), making them seem bigger (more Pistols-ish in places) and more friendly if less mean. So it takes a few plays to get used to the subtle change, but it's worth it. Guitarist/leader and onetime Fastbacks drummer Rusty Willoughby's singing on the more amiable pop tunes makes Flop sound like a squeaky-clean cross between the Records, Cheap Trick, and the Bay City Rollers, crossing this otherwise punk-oriented, two-guitar barrage into more maudlin power pop territory (and on the more sassy numbers such as "En Route to the Unified Field Theory" and "A Fixed Point," they flirt with glam-ish camp); even then it's thick and zesty, and the band can't help but blasting out the next track. Each song takes pains to depart from its predecessor, altering the tempos, rhythms, swings, and feels (hooray for the lost art of variety!). While the late-'70s Buzzcocks remain the ultimate pairing of punk's wall-of-guitar onslaught and unbelievably catchy hooks, this hookup of their old producer and these Pac Northwest mavericks "produces" favorable results.

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