Bad Wizard

Sophisticated Mouth

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In the short year since their debut release, Brooklyn-by-way-of-Georgia's Bad Wizard have quickly made a name for themselves as one of the Big Apple's hardest working and hardest rocking outfits, which might explain the speedy arrival of their follow-up effort, 2002's Sophisticated Mouth. Unfortunately, such expediency also resulted in an undeniable sophomore slump. Most noticeably, the album lacks the sonic punch in the gut of its predecessor -- not necessarily from a songwriting perspective, mind you, but in the production department, where it falls rather short in terms of tightly wound crunch. Some might see that exchange as a bonus for clearing the air of some excess distortion, and with standout moments such as "Hurricane" and "Whoo!" handily bullying less focused moments like "Soft, Warm and Wet" and "Loosen Up!" for their lunch money, Bad Wizard can hardly be accused of phoning this one in. Gravel-throated wild man Curtis Brown and firebrand guitarist Eddie Lynch are still the band's dual focal points (as well as the only remaining players from the first LP), but not even their spirited performances can carry the load all by themselves -- especially with new slide guitarist Tina Gorin such a non-factor throughout. "Needle 2 Groove" introduces a surprising fuzzed-out organ solo over its thrusting main riff (a bastardized version of Motörhead's "Iron Horse"), and a cover of Uriah Heep's "Love Machine" wraps it with some surprise, but the overall result is never as irresistible and entertaining as the preceding album.

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