Building on their agreeable debut EP, Jeff Pezzati's new blasting power trio deliver more substantial proof that there's vibrant life a decade after Naked Raygun -- and, like his former band at its best, the big sound hasn't dated. Torch Songs is a royal feast for those who fondly recall Pezzati's days as one of the great heroes of 1980s U.S. post-punk. One listen to the throwback whoah-woah's of the soaring "The Big Top," or some of his aerial double-track harmonies, and you know the tall, wiry, dynamic, charismatic, smart, big-eared hammerhead is still up to his best tricks. But, even while calling the band's new label Jettison (i.e. NR's 1988 third LP), the Bomb is no mere Raygun Jr. Perhaps the solid Buzzcocks-meets-Killing Joke walls of guitar in "Intro Song" and "Can Jeannie Come Out Tonight" is another familiar trademark. But the chords and tunes are more pop-oriented with an emphasis on '77 riffing. The songwriting is far more consistent than the slightly spotty later Raygun efforts. And, as the title suggests, the lyrics seem to focus more on relationships, in particular the tenuous, tantalizing perils of as-yet-unrequited romantic intentions. Guitarist John Maxwell is both a tight and elastic lead guitar player, and Paul Garcia's beat is perpetually solid and punchy. Best of all, Pezzati returns with a thump to the bass position he manned briefly in Big Black, circa 1984's Bulldozer. His style remains distinctively fluid and purring, as this LP's engineer, ex-Big Black mainman Steve Albini, could attest better than anyone. Overall, this is a terrific hard cranker, one that sounds too damn good to be wholly sentimental, and too damn spirited to be anything but momentous. Just behind the first two Raygun LPs, this is Pezzati's best album-length work.
Torch Songs Review
by Jack Rabid