The Class of '98

Touch This and Die!

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On their debut album, Class of '98 ("No, we didn't graduate in 1998," clarifies bandleader Steve Wilson) displays both chops and cohesion unusual for a band that has been together for less than two years. At its best, the group's music pairs big, messy guitars with sharp, tight pop hooks; at its worst, it pairs big, messy guitars with flabby pop hooks, but even at its worst Touch This and Die! is plenty of good power pop fun. Wisely, the album leads with the irresistible "Everywhere You Go," on which jagged guitars slash across a candy-coated chorus that features nicely arranged octave non-harmonies and then segues into a bridge with "da-da-da" backing vocals; the next track opens with the disarming line "I started on the bass guitar because I thought it would be easier" and with equally disarming handclaps, but then gets surprisingly contemplative, evoking a more thoughtful version of the Gin Blossoms. In fact, that characterization applies to much of the music here: imagine if the Gin Blossoms delved beneath the melodic and lyrical surface a bit more often, and turned their guitars up just a bit louder, and you'll have a good idea of what to expect from Class of '98. Too much of the album's second-half sounds just barely shy of fully-realized, but overall this is an impressive debut.

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