The Human Atom Bombs

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Randy is smart and witty, well-read but not pretentious, equally adroit at addressing everyday concerns and larger societal issues, and they boast strong melodies and storming performances. Plus, their music is anthemic but still kicks butt. This is the fourth album from the Swedish quartet, but their debut for Epitaph, and it's a stunner. Once the band was content to try to be the fastest on record, and they have one final go on "Shape Up," but now they've indeed shaped up into a mature group with a more diverse and evolved sound to support their militant message. And the message is a potent one, from the wry "I Don't Need Love," the perfect antithesis to the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love," to the delightfully daft "Karl Marx and History," which celebrates and lampoons protest marches in one fell swoop. On a serious note is "Proletarian Hop," which draws a straight line between the fall of republican Spain and the modern world, and "If We Unite," a tribute to freedom fighters past and present. And Randy has a penchant for slamming past and present together, musically as well as lyrically. Slashes of the Stooges, splashes of the Clash, rockabilly riffs, and notable nods to early rock & roll combined with the catchphrases of yore, "rama lama ding dong," and the Republican chant "no pasaran." They even have the audacity to title songs "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Punk Rock Flu" (clever one) and "Chicken Shack." The title track is a tribute to Little Richard, and elsewhere they pay musical homage to Eddie Cochran. It's a wild ride across past and present, the early unions and modern economic liberalization, old heroes and new world orders. And like human atom bombs, the quartet scatters ideas, information, melodies, and moods from here to eternity.

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