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Sucking Out the Feeling

Michael Wong

Alterna-pop Assassins: Superdrag draws on the Mersey beat of the '60s and the thrash pop of the '70s for "Regretfully Yours."

Superdrag powers past pop into the modern world

By Nicky Baxter

CONSIDERING HOW good the Brit-pop (via Knoxville, Tenn.) outfit Superdrag is, their mid-June South Bay debut at the Cactus Club was a little disappointing. The band's energy level wasn't a problem; the rhythm section was all flailing arms and heads. Still, marred by episodically tuneless playing, this particular performance wasn't all that super. Regretfully Yours (Elektra), the group's inaugural disc, however, is something else.

Though not so obvious at the gig, singer, songwriter and guitarist John Davis; assistant guitarist Brandon Fisher; drummer Don Coffey Jr.; and haywired-haired bassist Tom Pappas are alterna-pop assassins. Very few currently fashionable melodo-noise boys and girls have made such an impact in so little time. Brandishing their influences like flags, Superdrag take off like '60s Mersey-beat boys back with a vengeance, but it's not the mid-'60s alone that fire these guys up. The thrash-pop spirit of '77 also juices this band's guitar-freaked tra-la-la style. Most obviously, the Jam's motor-scooter rock animates a certain ratio of Superdrag's sound and sense.

You can hear the connection proud and clear in "Cynicality." The album's fifth track is proof that Superdrag has absorbed not only the lessons of the '60s but also the razor-edge rock of that era's second coming a decade later. Few bands better symbolized this latter development than the Jam, and "Cynicality" is riven with that band's gift for powering pop into the modern world. It's all there: an unyieldingly rhythmic pulse, ascending neopsychedelic guitar and those irresistible sing-along vocals.

"Sucked Out," the first single, has college rock radio all abuzz. Funnily enough, the tune's charms may hit some ears as Green Day-related, initially. But "Sucked Out" is a lot better than anything Billy Joe could ever scarp together. The song is a kind of mini-instructional on how to shriek pop. Equal parts velvet and venom, 21-year-old upstart Davis' vocal performance is a heat-seeking missive. When Davis cries "Who sucked the fe-e-e-el-in'?" not only are we keen to know the answer, we also want to beat down the bastard(s) responsible.

"Sucked Out" was selected as Superdrag's single, but it could easily have been a half dozen others. "Slot Machine," the album's opening blast, is deeply dope. Strafing guitar fire, a melody that lolls around in your head like some illicit fantasy and Davis' wounded wailing combine to generate a swirling maelstrom that draws you in, whether you want to go there or not. Just an eye-blink long, "Slot Machine" segues into its second half, "Phaser," with a laserlike beam of feedback supplying the connective tissue. "Carried," however, would have been my first choice. More guitars blazing away, winsome vocals and hooky as hell--pure and easy pop for cool people.

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From the June 27-July 3, 1996 issue of Metro

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