The Makers

Rock Star God (Sub Pop)

Who would've thought the inscrutable, insolent, and indisputable kings of fuzzed-out garage-punk had a rock opera in 'em? Considering the leather-fisted primordial punk smeared on the Seattle-slash-Spokane quartet's five previous albums, most of the Makers' converted minions might have thought the well-dressed trash-rock messiahs could only bang out a three-chord snarling din. Well, color us impressed. Rock Star God showcases the band's versatility over the course of the snazzed-up 55-minute concept album loaded with glam-laced flash, hummable ballads, fierce riff-fits, pummeling rhythms, and a vague story line following the ascent of an unlikely hero. On top of its trademark bastard snot and apocalyptic brevity, the band deigns to show off its penchant for melody without a hint of the stale bubble gum of so-called pop-punk. Instead, the Makers' melodies go down like a mouthful of Pop Rocks and Coke -- sweet and addicting, but a little hard to swallow.

There are moments recalling Urge Overkill's satire of all things clichéd in the genre of concept albums and overinflated rock-opera songwriting. But the Makers embrace the form's inherent contradictions in order to shove them in our faces with the same bravado the band once crammed into misshapen chords and furious rhythms. Even when vocalist Michael Machine plays at coy detachment during the album's most anti-ironic flashes of romantic sensibility, the band challenges the punk paradigm that only snotty disdain can salvage the rock spirit. Following a self-effacing opening monologue setting the "stage" of the album, "Star Power" launches the invective, with a gyrating guitar line stomping all over a saloon piano and the frantic Charlie Watts-styled downbeat. On "Open Your Eyes," guitarist Jamie Jack Frost jabs out ringing power-chords -- kindly borrowed from the Who's "Substitute" -- as Michael sings, "I've been hungry like Elvis, baby/ In 1975." But it's beautifully slinking ballads like "God's Playing Favorites" -- complete with a string section and mellow organ chimes -- and the Dylan-esque "Texture of a Girl" that prove the group has only begun to show off its diverse talents. Rock Star God is a flawless progression beyond the overpopulated garage rock ghetto that injects pop tones without losing a bit of the Makers' vitality.

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