Naked Raygun

Growing Away

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Despite Raygun's revitalized reunion shows, a question lingered vis a vis the "new material" bugaboo. Guitarist Bill Stephens was/is an acceptable live replacement for vaunted wall-of-guitar hero John Haggerty, but the lone LP the Chicago punks recorded with Stephens, 1990's Raygun…Naked Raygun, was substandard, presaging their breakup. Cut to 2010 and the second release in the band's re-introduction 7" series, and these two slam-bang thrillers suggest that it was band fatigue, and not a fatal loss of songwriting with Haggerty's defection, that was the culprit 20 years ago. Either that or critical standards revived. Whatever, the riotously catchy/mod/anthemic ethic of vintage '80s Raygun is smeared all over the melancholic heartbreak of the energy-bursting "Growing Away" (written by Stephens and powerhouse, piledriving-snare-fills-happy drummer Eric Spicer, with an intro riff that nods to Magazine's "Shot by Both Sides" and its Buzzcocks cousin, "Lipstick") and the equally heart-pounding joy of the flipside "Just for Me" (penned by singer Jeff Pezzati). Both tracks blow the trousers off anything the band did in the '90s, revamping the adrenaline excitement of their primal past with requisite big-guitar sound and melodic style.