Hmmm, I just don’t quite know what to make of Gluecifer these days. Their 2002 “Tender Is the Savage” CD is one of my all-time favorites. I love the dirty Thin Lizzy meets AC/DC hooks, Biff Malibu’s manly swagger, the call-and-response background vocals. I actually wore out my first copy of it within six months. I have never worn out a CD before; to do so within six months, well, you can imagine how much I had been playing it.
So when “Basement Apes” was released the same year, I tried to like it, really, I did. But it was just so sterile sounding compared to the loose rawk they had perfected on previous CDs. But eventually I just couldn’t deny it: It sucked.
Did the fact that they had signed with Sony have anything to do with it? What about bass player Jon Average quitting the band? Did they make the fatal mistake of believing their own myth? Likely it was a combination of factors, much of it having to do with signing to a major label and then either being coerced, or making a conscious effort to produce a hit. The fact that their distinctive background vocals disappeared indicates that Average had been a vital component in their sound.
Now they have a new CD, “Automatic Thrill.” Like many of their fans (if you believe what’s written in their guestbook) I was truly hopeful that they would go back to that heavier sound. Well, they did. It’s loud, it’s fast, and it’s pounding — and it still manages to go in one ear and out the other. “Tender” (itself considered a sell-out by their earliest punk-loving fans) gripped me right away and wouldn’t let go. “Automatic Thrill” has yet to do that — even after repeated listens. It’s pleasurable enough when it’s actually playing, but when it’s over, there’s nothing that makes me say, “damn, I’ve got to hear that again.” None of the riffs stick in my head and bug me the rest of the day (though “A Call from the Other Side” and “Put Me on a Plate” come close). In other words, I doubt I’ll ever wear this one out.
One problem, oddly enough, seems to be too much volume. In their quest to turn it up to 11, they’ve muddied those great hooks into a wall of feedback. The music in general seems uninspired, as if their main goal was to make a CD that’s better than “Basement Apes,” as opposed to a CD that’s good on its own terms and makes the listener forget comparrisons altogether.
Of course, I’m willing to admit that I may have turned into the kind of fan I always hold in derision: One who can’t stand it when a favorite artist tries something new.