For all the weight given to it, geography doesn’t always causally influence the sound of music. So when a band makes that daring 30-mile migration from Tacoma to Seattle in the year punk central threw its garage doors open to the world, and then makes an album that steps right into the city’s then-current stylistic cliché, it’s safe to assume that factors other than water supply or scenery are at stake. Novel for the genus only in that bassist/backup singer Mari Anne Braeden isn’t a flannel-wearing boy, the loosely named Green Apple Quick Step displays nothing on Wonderful Virus any competent quintet couldn’t learn from a set of Alice in Chains, Candlebox and Pearl Jam songbooks. Ty Willman is an inoffensively functional vocalist and the lyrics use more big words than Eddie Vedder, but anyone looking for originality or effective musical excitement would do better turning up other rocks.
The second album is a completely different story. Displaying some real initiative on Reloaded, GAQS wisely opts not to compete head-on with Pearl Jam. (The two bands share management.) Instead, the group co-opted Stone Gossard as co-producer and spread its surprisingly useful stylistic wings. After trundling through a thick soup of gloomy atmospherics (“Hotel Wisconsin”) and a crunchy demonstration of wah-wah technique (“Ed #5”), the album suddenly comes alive with Braeden’s lead vocal on the don’t-care punk onrush of “No Favors.” Her high harmonies with Willman on the poppy “T.V. Girl” and the pretty “Alligator” fan the fun. A loopy cocktail lounge instrumental (“Space C*cksucker”) and an acoustic bonus track put a frothy head on the shaken-not-stirred music. Even when the lever swings back to Big Rock, the quintet still pulls something better out of its bag of tricks: the bleary-eyed gambol through “Los Vargos.” Pairing up the two voices, forcing songs toward places maybe they didn’t mean to go and generally not settling for the obvious when there’s another idea to try, Reloaded gets a lot closer to nirvana.