Orange County, California’s Big Drill Car specializes in bouncy punk-pop, full of hooks, harmonies and exuberant playing. Frank Daly’s earnest and clear vocals and Mark Arnold’s sharp, efficient guitar work brighten the six-song Small Block, a near-perfect introduction to a very likable quartet. The inexplicably French-titled “Les Cochons Sans Poils,” which suggests the group has listened to as much Cheap Trick as Black Flag, stands out on a record whose only disappointment is its brevity. The band’s first full-length opus (the title of which is format-specific) mines similar terrain, though only a couple of the tracks are as immediately catchy. Still, as the jaunty “16 Lines,” “No Need” and “About Us” prove, you’d be hard-pressed to find a band straddling the hardcore, power pop and hard-rock fences with more finesse and enthusiasm.
Batch upholds the group’s stylistic consistency: riffs, tunes and punchy rhythms collide in an enjoyable blend of big rock, vampy thrashfunk and nicely detailed pop that hardly belongs on a punk-rooted indie label. The originals (with typically loopy titles like “Freep,” “Ick” and “Restless Habs”) are engaging without quite reaching irresistibility (“Faster” comes close); the metal-edged cover of Devo’s “Freedom of Choice” is pointless.
The live Toured was recorded for $215 at CBGB in the fall of ’91; capping off a brisk half-hour of the band’s zippiest rock originals is a distressingly sober rock cover of Billy Joel’s gruesome “Big Shot.”
No Worse for the Wear might describe Daly and Arnold on the Big Drillers’ third studio full-length, but the band’s original rhythm section didn’t make it and was replaced. Otherwise, the album continues into a loud power pop domain not far from Material Issue, Smoking Popes or the Lemonheads — all informed by abiding Cheap Trick instincts. Tight, focused and nearly free of Batch‘s incipient arena proclivities, No Worse is Big Drill Car’s best, a bracing blast of nifty chord maneuvers, songcraft and harmony-brushed singing. Oh, and the song titles are fashioned to standard specifications (“Nagaina,” “Hye”).