Paint the Moon

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Paint the Moon is the full-length debut of Sullen, a St. Louis power trio built around the twin guitars/vocals of Justin Slazinik and Shanna Kiel. It includes new material, as well as re-recorded versions of songs that originally appeared on the band's early demos and cassette releases. While Sullen has rage to spare and has mastered the quiet/loud, female/male dynamic, the band's influences bleed through the fabric on most tracks. At times, Slazinik sounds even more like Courtney Love than Kiel, who spends most of her time on the mike copping either the erstwhile Mrs. Cobain or Kim Gordon. Sonic Youth is a definite sonic influence, as well; to its credit, Sullen infuses the latter influence into its own blue-collar, slash-and-burn songwriting. "Boys Are Worse," "Girls Are Gross," and "Gene Pool" force the triangular shapes of EVOL's midsection into sleazy, three-minute squares of punk rock. "Mothra" is a respectable nod to My Bloody Valentine, while the upbeat "Lilita" gives Kiel a brief chance to actually sing before twisting the dial to "scream" level, where it stays for most of the album. While Sullen's influences lay a heavy hand on the neck of Paint the Moon, strong performances from both Kiel and Slazinik -- however derivative -- eventually save this ambitious debut from being a simple retread. "No Sleep" stands out with a combat-ready riff that drags and leaps through overdriven solos, only to lock in place just as the two singers' voices clash on the gritty harmonies of the chorus. The production and mixing work of Andy Gerber (Local H, Caviar) at Chicago's Million Yen also deserves credit for helping Sullen outpace its record collection just enough to make a statement.

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