Tank Top City

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Sugarsmack's first -- and, as it would turn out, last -- major-label album, 1998's Tank Top City, is a huge improvement over 1993's Top Loader. That album had found the North Carolina-based band led by singer Hope Nicholls and bassist Aaron Pitkin (both ex-Fetchin Bones) being overpowered somewhat by producer Martin Atkins. Tank Top City is both weirder and more satisfying, with a much more overt sense of humor. The lyrics are almost dada in their sensibility, with bizarre non sequiturs colliding in nearly every verse. (The song titles are equally random, with eight of them named after former presidents for no readily apparent reason.) Musically, the album veers between amphetamine-laced speed punk, like the aptly named "Rush," and slower, almost psychedelic material, like the atmospheric closer "Roy." By far the weirdest of the weird is "Carter," an almost folky retelling of the traveling lawn gnome story (as later depicted in the film Amelie and elsewhere) sung by Nicholls in an exaggerated Southern twang. Tank Top City is a fragmented, sometimes incomprehensible rush of ideas, but it works more often than not.

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