Last Call For Vitriol

Arena Rock

First and foremost, don’t look to Superdrag for any lyrical profundity. They rely a bit too much on the kitsch pop filler of “oooh,” “baby,” “yeah, yeah,” and senseless chorus repetition; their songs rarely cover any subject other than being deliriously in love, being unhappily in love, or being dumped. In terms of music, theirs is an unoriginal style rooted deeply in traditional rock with little or no innovation to speak of.

Now, with those grudging qualifiers out of the way, it has to be said that this Knoxville four-piece kicks out highly accessible pop songs laden with energy, verve and trenchant guitar hooks. One need only think back to “Sucked Out” from Regretfully Yours (1996) or “Do The Vampire” from Head Trip in Every Key (1998), the latter a grinding, bluesy track that burrowed itself into the ears like a chigger. Last Call for Vitriol lacks a single as salient as these two, but this might be a result of the need to take a step backwards and grapple with lingering demons. The latest album is overtly more autobiographical than its predecessors, chronicling frontman John Davis’ battle with the bottle — always, of course, as it impacted relationships. Look no further than “The Staggering Genius,” “Feeling Like I Do” (a brilliantly catchy track), “Safe & Warm” and “Her Melancholy Tune” to see where the fight took him.

The last half of the album winds down into more acoustic territory (“Way Down Here Without You,” etc.) interspersed with some anachronistic classic rock anthems (“Remain Yer Strange,” “Drag Me Closer to You”), losing some of its appeal in the process. This fatigue isn’t countered by the unusual association that brought Guided By Voices’ Bob Pollard out of his basement recording studio to lend his vocals to “Baby Goes to Eleven,” the album opener.

In more ways than one, Last Call for Vitriol could best be described as just another Superdrag album: solid, well-crafted, and with no loss in quality or skill, but not a vehicle for any great leaps forward, either.

The Arena Rock Recording Company: • Superdrag:

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