Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Service Industry - "Limited Coverage" (Sauspop 2008)

There's nothing like the sense of anticipation waiting on the drop date for a record you can't wait to hear. It provides a great sense of relief and satisfaction when said record is everything you'd hoped it would be. Limited Coverage is one of those records.
Following up last years vitriolic debut Ranch is the New French The Service Industry once again doles out ten American working class screeds (plus a more than servicable Undertones cover), tongue firmly in cheek. Or maybe not so much in cheek. The songs generally cover topics like unreasonable bosses, ignorant customers who treat those waiting on them as servants, if they notice them at all, and other scourges of those in service jobs taken for granted by those more "successful" in our society.

It helps that songwriters Mike McCoy and Hunter Darby have joined forces on this project (they also worked together in the terrific, if slightly unfocused, garage band The American People) as they not only have, in spades, the personal experience to lend solid authenticity to these songs, but also happen to be outstanding songwriters each in their own right. McCoy fronted legendary Kansas City pop-punk outfit Cher UK, and Darby was 1/2 the inspired songwriting team behind Austin's storied power pop troopers The Wannabes. You can count on the results of these two working together being greater than the sum of their parts. In addition, Julie Lowery provides soaring harmony vocals and contributes a song of her own, "JoJo", and Andy Thomas and Robbie Araiza provide spotless guitars. Also a treat is the appearance of punk elder statesman Curt Kirkwood, main man behind The Meat Puppets, lending his guitar talents here and there. As these are veterans all, it would be a surprise if this record was anything less than a home run.

Limited Coverage is a college rock record in the best possible sense of the term. The bile of Ranch is the New French is toned down without losing any of the seething angst and, let's face it, hilarity (deliberately or not) that characterized that record. You have catchy sing alongs like "Job of Quality" and "They Fired Me" amongst, for the most part, accessible and hooky pop gems. McCoy's more experimental side surfaces on the Caribbean sounding rhythms of "Valhalla" and his punk roots shine through on the hysterical "Zippy's Lament", a song that anyone who's worked in customer service will strongly identify with. The Darby penned "Hollywood Out of Austin" provides an all too accurate portrayal of Austin's celebrity "guests", their sense of entitlement, and the locals' increasing frustration with it. Dropped right in the middle of this album's tirade is a fantastic cover of "You've Got My Number (Why Don't You Use It?)" by The Undertones which, while it doesn't necessarily fit the theme of the the record, certainly maintains the pervasive sense of frustration.

Curt Kirkwood's unmistakable guitar playing, most apparent on "They Fired Me", "Hollywood Out of Austin", and "Zippy's Lament", is delightful to hear and perfectly integrated into the songs. Kirkwood's been steady in his output over the last few years, but with the release of the latest Meat Puppets full length (Rise To Your Knees, Anodyne Records 2007) and his contribution here his inspiration seems to be firing on all cylinders again. That this is immensely to the benefit of rock 'n' roll in general should be obvious to everyone paying attention.

While "Have To Go To Work", with its exceedingly clever existential lyric cycle, is the strongest track here, there's not a weak one among them. The feel of the record hearkens back to the the college rock of the 1980's, right down to the very Reivers-esque bridge on "Now Wake Up and Die", and hearing a straight up honest to God hard pop album in the midst of all the current post-post modern crap or whatever they're calling it is damn refreshing. The songs are rock solid and hooky, and the concept of the band is timely and justifiably self-righteous without losing its sense of humor.

My only concern is that one of the main strengths of The Service Industry, its concept, could end up being its Achilles heel as well. How many times will this trick pony jump? That being said, with this group of people in the saddle you can always count on them having an endless supply of tricks up their sleeve.

Limited Coverage releases Feb. 19th, 2008 on Sauspop Records (http://www.sauspop.com/).

4 out of 4, kiddos.

1 comment:

Daniel Owen said...

Yeah, working for a fast-food shithole wasn't one of the high-points of my life. Fuck...