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Schmack! Review

by Johnny Loftus

What the world needs now is another Sum 41, only from New Zealand this time. Steriogram understand this. Capitalizing on the international clamor, the Kiwi fivesome have delivered a clattering, campy, gloriously in-the-moment scrapheap of riffs and attitude called Schmack!. Like all scrapheaps, the album has its fair share of useless filler. But, like the Sums, the boys in Steriogram have a particular flair for pinning outsized metal riffs and impossibly generic white-boy raps onto a punk-pop framework, and making the whole mess work. Well, it works in two-minute doses, anyway. "Walkie Talkie Man" introduces gawky MC Tyson Kennedy's snarky patter -- he sounds like Scrappy Doo with Red Bull wings (Kennedy's first line: "Well you're walkin' and a talkin' and a movin' and a groovin' and a hippin' and a hoppin'..."). Musically, the track is paint-by-numbers modern rock, built entirely from a guitar hook and clever production. Thank Sugar Ray- and Sublime-helming veteran David Kahne for that. He understands how much Kennedy's delivery flirts with being irritating, and throughout Schmack! he cleverly plays his presence off the more traditional chorus vocals of Brad Carter. From the blathering funk metal of the title track to the absolutely cartoonish "Fat and Proud" -- which is as close as this combo ever gets to a rallying statement -- Steriogram chew up early, freakout period Red Hot Chili Peppers and spits it out for the attention-span-less new millennium, skewed young with sugary guitar parts and plenty of pop-culture tomfoolery. The bomb track here? "White Trash." An anthem built from busted amplifiers, discarded Wal-Mart shelving, and fast-food garbage-dump detritus, "Trash" could not have been written in the pre-Joe Dirt era. "You should see my hairdo/Dyed it jet black/Well it's short on the top and" -- wait for it -- "long in the back." It's ironic and triumphant all at once, celebrating low culture even as it plants a foot in its face for the el-cheapo laugh. It defines the disposable yet lovable dichotomy of Steriogram, and should give their suspect staying power a nice growth spurt.

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