The 77s

Ping Pong Over the Abyss

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There is little positive that can be said about the 77's' workmanlike debut. Kicking off with the poor man's Cars song "A Different Kind of Light," the still germinal 77's toil in mostly high-gloss radio rock for the duration of Ping Pong Over the Abyss. Roe, yet to evolve into the cunning wordsmith behind "The Lust, the Flesh, the Eyes, and the Pride of Life," instead dabbles in clich├ęs like "She's so pretty/Guys desire her instantly." The title track is lamentable "Hot for Teacher" boogie rock, and most of the tracks seem like attempts at style mastery rather than actual songwriting. There are highlights -- the quirky, Devo-ish "It's So Sad" retains its charm (sounding not entirely unlike the band's peers Daniel Amos), and "Time Is Slipping Away" shows Roe's pop instincts in their extremely primitive stages. When the record was reissued in 1995, it was augmented with demo versions of many of the songs that restore a humanity that is lacking on the Plasticine album versions (a proper grittiness is restored to the title track that makes it much easier to abide). Still, Ping Pong Over the Abyss is very clearly a first record, and one that only the most love-blinded acolyte could recommend without reservation.

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