It has been an eventful five years for the Boss Martians since their last album. The quartet has shuffled its rhythm section, been embraced by Little Steven Van Zandt‘s garage-rock empire and even recruited Iggy Pop to co-write and appear on a track on its new MuSick Records disc.
But as the Martians’ new Pressure in the S.O.D.O. (a reference to a neighborhood in the band’s hometown of Seattle) shows, little has changed musically. And while that doesn’t make for much variety, that’s still largely a good thing.
The band’s brand of high-energy tunefulness revolves around singer/guitarist Evan Foster‘s crunchy riffs, shout-it-out-loud choruses and Nick Contento‘s melodic keyboard work. The only real downside is that by relying so heavily on the same formula, some of the fast-tempo numbers on the disc’s second half tend to run together a bit.
Not that there is a problem distinguishing which track features a certain perpetually shirtless legend; Pop and Foster trade off verses on the hard-charging “Mars Is for Martians,” a goofy novelty notable for its unlikely rhyming of “obituary” and “pituitary.”
The Martians fare better sans famous collaborators on the album’s other dozen cuts.
The frenetic Foster doesn’t so much sing as he does vent at some points, either through his wounded-but-resilient vocals or his frequently fiery solos. “If you only knew my love, you’d never run away!” he cries out convincingly on the taut rocker “If You Only Knew.” And he leads the chants on the rowdy “Hey Hey Yeah Yeah,” a full-on, fist-pumping anthem that seems likely to be copped for a testosterone-fueled ESPN highlight reel.
Elsewhere, the Martians turn the volume down a bit to great effect and show they still sometimes favor polish over power, with the aching “And She’s Gone,” perhaps the album’s strongest track. Then there’s the Cheap Trick-meets-Fountains of Wayne album closer, “Elsie,” which serves a fitting finale, as Foster and company show off both their pop leanings and hard-rocking sensibilities.
The band also throws in a tempo change or two in “Elsie,” plus an extended guitar outro, and yet it all clocks in at (for them) a whopping four minutes and 12 seconds. In the Boss Martians’ universe, it doesn’t get any better than that.
— By George Henn