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Buzz Kill City

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Though their moniker insinuates flaccid elevator music (nothing will offend!) for dentist offices, this Los Angeles/ex-Chicago four are joking: Buzz Kill City is a drums-a-poundin', speakers-fillin', intrepid alterna-rock crossroads of '80s indie rock and '70s new wave. Their unashamed synths -- "Homeless Love Anthem," "Kill the Landlord" -- deserve Cars/Stranglers comparisons, but can't disguise a powerful guitar group assuaged by Mazzaschi's dreamy melodicism. Where others would pound chests and grunt, he goes the smarter sensitive route, more like Fountains of Wayne and Death Cab for Cutie (and on "$5 Paradise," Squeeze). They benefit from being led by producer Josiah Mazzaschi (engineer, Built to Spill, Rilo Kiley, the Jesus and Mary Chain's William Reid, etc.) recording in his Cave; they sound sharply recorded, not overlabored. And especially on "Thrown Against the Wall," "Indirect Communication," and "Bad Gene," this consistent combo of aggression, chops, and sweetness is strongly satisfying.

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