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The first full-length album by Germany's Beatsteaks (following a self-released demo and a 1997 EP) was released on Epitaph in 2000, but it sounds as if the group's heart and soul lie in the immediate pre-grunge era; Launched would not sound out of place played amongst a bunch of mid-to-late-'80s releases on the SST label, plus maybe the first couple of Faith No More albums. The tempos are not quite grunge-vintage slow, but they're relatively tempered, and the there's a metallic edge to the guitars on songs like the thundering opener, "Panic," that sets the Beatsteaks apart from most of their Epitaph brethren. The other thing that makes Launched an entertaining listen is the surprising and effective pop-song feel present in several of the songs, particularly the anthemic "We Have to Figure It Out Tonight," and the unexpectedly sweet chorus in the otherwise standard-issue, hardcore shouter "Happy Now?" These songs suggest a strong Foo Fighters influence, which suits the group well. Other tunes, like a puckish cover of Manowar's "Kings of Metal" that recasts the headbanging roar of the original into a relaxed lope that sounds more like Thin Lizzy, feature a sly sense of humor that's equally appealing.

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