Division of Laura Lee

Black City (Burning Heart/Epitaph)

Despite its moniker, which name-checks a '60s soul singer best known for the proto-feminist declaration "Women's Love Rights," Division of Laura Lee is among a "new wave" of Swedish acts such as the Hives that are heavily influenced by vintage garage rock and punk. These musical elements are hardly novel, of course, and anyone who's spent time traversing the musical underground knows that countless acts have used them for years. Even so, folks with a weakness for this sound, such as yours truly, are generally so overwhelmed with gratitude regarding its newfound popularity that questions of freshness and innovation never really come up. Retro sucks unless what's being referenced was cool--in which case it's great!

And so it is with Black City, which doesn't have an original idea in its collective head but borrows some pretty damn enjoyable ones. "Need to Get Some," the opener, uses rudimentary riffing, simplistic rhythms, random sirens and Per Stålberg's brawny vocals to produce three minutes or so of pure pleasure; "We've Been Planning This for Years" supplements unconcealed cockiness with background yeah-yeahing that's irresistibly dumb; "The Truth Is Fucked" mates pop sensibility and a grinding groove with lyrics that do justice to its title; and "Wild and Crazy" contradicts its first line--"I'm not your toy for penetration"--with a melody that cuts to the core. Tunes like these have inspired plenty of hosannas from rock journalists, many of them completely out of proportion with the group's actual achievements. At this point in its development, Division of Laura Lee is an entertaining throwback to a genre that's been ignored by the mainstream for a while, not a sonic breakthrough of biblical proportions.

 
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