Hot Rod Circuit

The Underground Is a Dying Breed

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Hot Rod Circuit might never break out of the underground -- underrated and destined to always be mentioned second to peers like the Get Up Kids and Saves the Day -- but that won't be for lack of talent. The Underground Is a Dying Breed is full of all the familiar hooks and heartfelt vocals that Andy Jackson and crew do so well, though it's all done with more bright immediacy this time around, a fact that will certainly help win back some of the fans disappointed in 2004's Reality's Coming Through. There's a Southern warmth that permeates the tracks (not a country feel, just a warmth), even more apparent in songs like "Stateside" and "Vampire," which indeed have a subtle twang. "U.S. Royalty" and the excellent "Battleship" sound like classic Hot Rod Circuit, managing to be simultaneously fresh and invigorating, comforting and familiar; it's what emo sounded like before it just became synonymous with awkward haircuts and hypersensitivity. Elsewhere, "Spit You Out" crackles with urgency before the churning "Cali" finds Jackson's oft-sweet if not slightly worn voice doused in gravelly defiance for a forceful delivery unnervingly close to Say Anything's Max Bemis. It all adds up to a pretty damn enjoyable album that, while not the best the band has ever written, is still an extremely solid and effective release, proving that regardless of whether the underground is really dying around them or not, Hot Rod Circuit are very much alive.

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