If things were any cuter on a lot of this album's artwork -- the release itself coming in at a brisk 12 songs in 25 minutes -- then it might be insufferable. Happily, things are as thrashy as they are cuddly, whether it's the long-haired kid rocking out on the back or the evil, grinning weirdo behind two other pop types in some of the artwork. As for the music itself, those who love their brash pop hooks colored by feedback will find So You Wanna Be a Spy? a fun experience and a half. The Maher brothers pitch themselves between tons of other bands who do the same and those who can do something a little more with them -- they're not truly great yet, but they're getting there. The roughly sung (but importantly not shouted or screamed) vocals call to mind classic OC punk pop à la the Adolescents, with not as much high-pitched squealing. When the three decide to do some lung shredding here and there, like on the call-and-response break in "Home Shopper," it usually works because of the contrast. Guitarwise, Clinton and Nigel pile it on without drowning everything -- it's the type of "put an instant smile on your face" way around feedback that works so well in the right hands. Clinton's over-dubbed bass work and Dallas' drumming keep things going without much more to add than that, but one can't knock the end results. Lyrically, things veer both towards the amusing and the emotionally self-regarding -- common topics in the field, but some definite winners emerge, like the anti-societal ritual rant of "Make-up and Movies" and the go-nowhere blues of "A Day on the Set." There's bouncier pop, there's blasting grind, and in the end it all works like a little fun charm.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett