Memphis' River City Tanlines third album, "Coast to Coast," opens with a trio of bullet-clad, jumpy power-pop rockers. Leadoff track "I Don't Get It" sounds straight out of 1977's New York's Lower East Side and the next two rock as hard as the Ramones and sound as sweet as any power-pop of the last four decades.
Vocalist and guitarist Alicja Trout (how's that for a punk rock alias?) calls to mind a dumbfounded Joey Ramone, letting listeners know in the most dead-pan of ways that she doesn't get it. Trout, who previously played with the late Jay Reatard in the band Lost Sounds, sounds majestic when employing that particular brand of strange and detached emotional resonance. She's never overbearing or pretentious, but always sounds genuine and approachable -- even when singing that she can't stand someone anymore, or even when she's getting shot down.
Trout's lyrics are fun, charming and oftentimes humorous. On "Stop My Heart" she declares, "If I see you, what am I supposed to do/I'm such a retarded fool around you." With such humility, it's easy to find comfort in the barrage of buzzing power chords.
But despite the first three tracks, the band isn't all sweet and sugary; they often serve up a heavily riff-oriented sound that may out-"2112" Rush, or out-"Squawk" Budgie. Songs such as "Lights," "Dark Matter" and "You Shot Me" may be likened to the Runaways with the dark and dangerous vibes, but also Heart, with the mammoth riffs and melodic vocals.
"Dark Matter" in particular stands out. The track begins as a sludgy prog-rock instrumental, providing multiple passages before giving way to an impatient stampede of aggressive riffs and hollering. With all these converging influences and types of rock music, River City Tanlines manage to provide a clear and cohesive style that is distinctly their own rather than a cut-and-paste display of all their influences. "Coast to Coast" sounds best when the Ramones-esque rock 'n' roll melds with the the stuttering bop of Trout's vocals. And there is plenty of that on this album.
"Coast to Coast" will be released on July 31 on Big Legal Mess/Fat Possum.