The Vacancies

A Beat Missing or a Silence Added

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Joan Jett doesn't produce records for many punk rock bands, and when she does, it's usually for somebody special -- the Germs and Bikini Kill, for instance. So it's a bit surprising to report that there isn't anything all that groundbreaking about Cleveland's the Vacancies, who have been given the luxury of a Joan Jett production on their second disc, A Beat Missing or a Silence Added. The Vacancies play old-school punk rock with just a shade too much sophistication to be hardcore and too much rage and muscle to qualify as pop-punk, though they've got tough melodic hooks to die for. Lyrically, they're down with the traditional punk ideology -- government, religion, and greed are bad, self-reliance and electric guitars are good, and boredom is to be avoided at all costs (though living fast and dying young is thankfully regarded as overrated). But if the Vacancies ain't reinventing the wheel on A Beat Missing or a Silence Added, they sure know how to make with the rock -- guitarists Michael James and Bo crank their axes within an inch of their lives, drummer Angelo Merendino bashes with impressive force and imagination, and vocalist Billy Crooked can howl and sneer with the best of the current pack. Jett and longtime studio partner Kenny Laguna make these guys sound impressively tight and bruising on tape, and the end result is a record with just enough smarts and lots of cojones; maybe you've heard this sort of thing before, but it's probably been a while since you've heard it done this well, and that's what sets the Vacancies apart from the pack.

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