Bullets and Octane

In the Mouth of the Young

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Orange County's neo-punk rockers Bullets and Octane make the most of their leap to a major label on In the Mouth of the Young: they take full advantage of their increased budget by hiring Helmet's Page Hamilton as their producer and then using a topless Suicide Girl wannabe nursing an infant for their front cover art. Hamilton is to catch a listener's ear, the girl is to catch the attention of potential listeners scanning the record bins or thumbnail jpegs on the Web, and both moves work. The Helmet guitarist gives these Social Distortion-styled punkers an exacting, razor-sharp sound that might give a little bit too much focus to their reckless sleaze, but it's undoubtedly an improvement over their promising indie 2004 debut Revelry, which had the basic sound but needed muscle and direction, two things they have in spades on In the Mouth of the Young. Even with Hamilton's alt-metal makeover and the heavy Social Distortion influence, Bullets and Octane have too much L.A. sleaze to sound like true punkers, but that's to their benefit here: it gives their music muscle and grease. And while at times the album can sound a little prefabricated -- just enough to give RCA something easy to sell -- Bullets and Octane have enough hooks and energy to make this record work, and their embrace of both L.A. punk and L.A. metal gives them a bit of distinctive sound. Perhaps they're just a shade too polished and precise to be the reckless punk rockers they aspire to be, but as far as major-label retro-punk goes in 2006, this is a strong listen, since Bullets and Octane have style and swagger in equal measure.

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