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The Partisans, "So Neat"; Superchunk, "Here's To Shutting Up"

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The Partisans, "So Neat" (TKO Records)

What set The Partisans apart from its comrades of the late-'70s and early-'80s English street punk/oi! movement was the band's versatility, which allowed the group to make a break with the posturing associated with punk rock. This move toward writing music on its own terms enabled the band to create a sound that was powerful, yet still accessible to both punk and non-punk alike. Now 17 years since their last release, The Partisans by wisely maintaining their winning formula. make a welcome reemergence with "So Neat," an EP that finds the outfit in top form. In the short span of three songs, The Partisans pack a punch of melodic '77-style punk. The opening title track trumpets the return of The Partisans with its signature hooks and catchy backing chorus, accompanied by Spike's unique lead vocals putting the icing on the cake. "Hysteria" could draw comparisons to The Clash, then it unexpectedly turns to Iggy & The Stooges territory, but the song is still enjoyable.

Some people might question the purpose of a Partisans reunion (or any other groundbreaking defunct band for that matter), but I, for one, now look forward to the possibility of seeing a group who (if the cards were dealt a little differently) could have been The Clash. — Angelo DeFranzo

Superchunk, "Here's To Shutting Up" (Merge)

Most bands never release eight albums. Certainly not most independent bands that lack the massive financial resources afforded to major-label acts. In that alone, "Here's To Shutting Up" — the eighth full-length from the staunchly autonomous Superchunk — is remarkable and worth attention. The good news is that the album is also superb. Although the band isn't making huge stylistic leaps (i.e. the Chapel Hill-based quartet still sounds unmistakably like itself), it is the subtle differences between earlier releases and the new material that count. Superchunk has tinkered with orchestral arrangements and keyboard effects in recent years, but never has it sounded so complete and unforced as it does on "Here's To Shutting Up."

Album opener, "Late-Century Dream," hits immediately and ranks right up there with the band's best single songs. Drummer Jon Wuster propels the tune with a charging back beat, and keys trickle in out over a wash of guitars as frontman Mac McCaughan waxes poetic with his characteristic flair for well-selected words. Brilliant. "Art Class (Songs for Yayoi Kusama)" is experimental without drifting into that ultracomplex, post-rock area and "Phone Sex" is a perfectly titled (and aurally pleasing) ode to distant love and daily struggles. As a whole, "Here's To Shutting Up" is a near flawless piece of music/art from a rare career band. If this is any indication of what's to come in the future, these indie rock heroes won't be shutting up anytime soon. Here's to that! — Bret Booth

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