Like a big boy with a little head (or Neil Young on a grunge-pop adventure), Portland, Oregon’s Crackerbash started off putting squingey pop singing atop a fat-bottomed indie-rock buzz. Crackerbash diverges from standard Northwest noise by giving the hapless (but winsomely tuneful) vocals prominence over the peppy punk playing. An adorable little monster, the album screams a little, rocks a lot and generally displays as much songwriting creativity as sloppy performing enthusiasm. The catchy chorus of “Jasper” hides an unsettling and stormy half-step coda; “Human Alarm Clock” triples a spongy bassline with gaping guitar and distorted vocals but manages to avoid lockstep obviousness. Good ideas occasionally make the band’s execution disappointing: “Bad Karma,” a soaring harmony (well…) charmer, especially cries out for a more careful rendering. (The vinyl and CD each contain a different bonus track.)
Except for the uproariously earnest attempt at vocal-group swooniness (the organ-driven “Lovelights”), Crackerbash doesn’t derive much audible benefit from Kurt Bloch’s production on the seven-song Tin Toy. Jagging along with harsher, harder punk mettle and more decisive drumming than on the debut, the band slouches towards generic pop aggression, although there’s more behind “Orion” (which sounds like a Spinanes song given a blustery supercharge), “Hollow” (a bomb-dropping skeleton) and “La La La” (an edgy, atmospheric drive through Los Angeles) than that.