The Disciplines

Virgins of Menace

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With the Posies, Ken Stringfellow was one of the leaders of a pop group that could rock out under the right circumstances; in his side gig as frontman with the Disciplines, he turns this formula upside down, showing he's a great rock & roll shouter heading up a band that knows how to wield some poppy hooks to their guitar firepower. The Disciplines' second album, Virgins of Menace, gives Stringfellow room to strut around like some punky glam rock hero, and it suits him just fine as he spits gleeful venom on "Fate's a Strong Bitch" (where he out-attitudes guest vocalist Lydia Lunch, no small accomplishment) and sounds lean and cocky on "The War's Not Over." Of course, it helps that Stringfellow has just the right band for this sort of act; guitarist Bjorn Bergene makes these songs catchy and tuneful even when he's laying out the power chords (as on the Buzzcocks homage "Complicated Times" and the straightforward rocker "Some Kind of Sickness"), or easing up with some ringing acoustic-based leads (cue up "Kill the Killjoy" for details), and bassist Bard Helgeland and drummer Ralle Vilnes are agile and muscular, keeping the beat lively and hitting gloriously hard. And the band has a clear talent for songwriting, with their pop inclinations never compromising their rock moves or their brief exploration of prog rock textures on "Everything Forever (Pig Wars)." Cruising through a dozen songs in just over 33 minutes, Virgins of Menace delivers the goods and wastes no time doing it; this is a satisfying dose of rock & roll fun with both brains and brawn, and this may well surprise folks who think Frosting on the Beater or Amazing Disgrace taught them everything they need to know about Ken Stringfellow.

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