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  Rock Bottom  
  The Kiss Offs  
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Fuzz pedals. Jangly guitars. Insistent drumming. Loud organs. Tag-Teaming male and female vocals. And lyrics delivered with the snottiness of a drunk 18 year old dressed up to go to a biker bar.

If this sounds like something you would like, continue on. Otherwise stop now, and go read about some other band. Might I suggest this one?

I'd never heard of this band from Austin until they played Atlanta about a year and a half ago. As they were setting up, I noticed that the female keyboard/vocalist had a bandage on her arm. "Hmm...that's interesting," I thought, "I wonder what happened..." As if on cue, the woman did something to an object on the stage and suddenly poof this puff of flame appeared, searing my eyebrows even though I stood some 15 feet from the stage.

Later, as the Kiss Offs played to room full of skeptics (who remained far away from the pyrotechnics) and three true believers (who remained within baking distance of the flashpots), the drummer set part of his drumkit on fire. I hooted in appreciation, as the male and female vocalists screamed something about Hester Prynne and the band played music that sounded like the bastard child of early Rolling Stones and The Stooges (with just a hint of X).

If this doesn't scare you, read on. Otherwise, we review other bands that might appeal to you.

The Kiss Offs' first album, Goodbye Private Life, is a masterpiece of the Texas Indie Pop genre - filled with too many guitars filtering through too many pedals, sounding like something you might play riding down the highway in your beat up jalopy, with the windows down, and the music blaring, and you singing along like there's no tomorrow. It's the type of album that makes you dance against your will, tapping your feet as you move from the stereo to the desk. It's loud and out of control garage rock with catchy riffs and literate lyrics about everyday stuff with clever metaphors.

If you're not into that, you don't want to read this review. Trust me. This is your final warning.

O.K., for those of your who have made it this far, let's talk about this new album.

According to what I've read, The Kiss Offs are no longer a working band. With only 8 songs in approximately 30 minutes, Rock Bottom demonstrates this dysfunction clearly, coming off as more of an artifact than as a step forward. All of the songs sound like they could have been outtakes from the previous album - the music sounds much the same, and the vocals interact with the same intensity. Even the production could blend in with the lifelike recording seen before. This isn't to say it's bad or inadequate, but rather it seems apparent that The Kiss Offs set out to record their works in progress before they became non-functional.

The strongest of the songs, such as Let Me Find the Good in You or We Can Work It Out serve up a healthy portion of raunchy snotty rock. Others, such as the 7 minute long Pleather Pantz sound like half-written demos filled with good (and not so good) ideas that need expansion to become more focused. There's little consistency in the material, although you can't really hear any outright mistakes.

Still, I honestly like this album. Even the worst of the songs are better than anything The Gossip has ever released. And the best of the material is insanely catchy. I find myself singing the choruses randomly, and I find myself dancing, even if I don't want to. At the end of the CD, I find myself asking, "Is that all? I can't believe it's done already..." And it's very likely that Rock Bottom will end up in my heavy CD rotation for a while. However, it's not an album I'd recommend to someone who doesn't already like The Kiss Offs, or their genre of music. But if you want to dance, or you think The Make Up were way cool, this might be worth checking out (especially if you can't find a copy of The Kiss Off's first album).

I just wish they'd found a way to package the flashpots, though...

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