Mega City Four

Sebastopol Rd.

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The band's one full American release was the beneficiary of some unexpected hype -- friends and past tourmates Ned's Atomic Dustbin had often plugged the group in the States, while the Melody Maker-sponsored Rollercoaster tour featuring the Jesus and Mary Chain that year distributed tons of free issues that featured Wiz on the cover. That and a brief tour weren't enough to win the group any further attention, unfortunately -- a severe pity because, heard from ten years' distance, Sebastopol Rd. is at once comfortably obvious and weirdly prescient. While Wiz's high, impassioned vocals weren't emo per se -- and he was always careful to sing rather than scream -- there's a weird way in how the 12 songs almost predict the future without trying to. Certainly plenty a young American band in the 21st century could have fun with the at-once bright yet sweetly melancholic crunch and drive of songs like "Scared of Cats" and "Stop," the lead single from the album and easily the highlight of the record. Lyrics like "I'm on the outside looking in/And you can't see me/You're so wrapped up in your world" don't hinder that impression, but Wiz has a way of singing that's less whining and more regretful. Drummer Chris Jones in particular knows how to add a certain extra something -- check his sudden drum stutters in "Callous" or the hint of jazzy swing in "Anne Bancroft." Jessica Corcoran's production, like her similar work with Ned's and the Senseless Things, captures a lovely mid-range pop-punk crunch with plenty of emphasis on the pop. Add in some surprisingly good guitar solos (of the inspirational rather than the wanky sort) and such Hüsker Dü-inspired treats like "What's Up?," and the result is a warm and winning album through and through.

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