As Jerry Lewis is to France, Bob Mould is to San Diego, California. At least that’s the feeling one gets from mulling over the output of Padres-land bands like fluf and, most conspicuously, this quartet (which actually hails from the San Francisco suburb of Antioch). Singer/guitarist Bob Reed clearly used late-period Hüsker Dü albums like Candy Apple Grey and Flip Your Wig as the soundtrack to numerous air guitar practice sessions: he’s appropriated a goodly number of Mould’s phrasing tricks (it’s safe to assume the raw-throated rasp comes naturally) as well as his tendency to cast gorgeous psychedelic leads adrift in a sea of amp-fuzz.
On the quartet’s self-titled (and Butch Vig-produced) debut, Reed manages to take those old, borrowed things (most in evidence on the poppy-but-cathartic “It’s Tomorrow” and “Arrows”) and fuse them with something new and something blue (like the heart-on-his-sleeve “Totally Gorgeous Foreign Chick”). A weakness for sappy sentiment gets the best of him more often than one would expect from a skater dude, but there’s enough ballast (like the garage-rock stomp “Try”) to keep the band grounded. While Two Words, produced by Kurt Bloch, is less derivative, it’s more a regression than a progression, laden as it is with funnypunk detours like “Winky Dinky Dog” and unreconstructed AOR rewrites — “How Ya Doin” could pass unnoticed on one of those Best of Southern Rock cassettes you can find at truck stops nationwide. Reed deserves some credit, however, for presaging Weezer’s “Buddy Holly” with a sweet little trifle called “Roy Orbison.”