A lot of bands come up with names they live to regret (Hootie and the Blowfish, Moonpools and Caterpillars, Beatles), but you’d have to search around to top the stylistic misapprehension conveyed by the handle (the title of a classic sociology project) attached to this at-large Los Angeles rock group. Carefully covering the Minutemen’s “It’s Expected I’m Gone” but otherwise playing tunefully thrusting Rage Against the Tool Jam riffrock on its debut album, the quartet racks up a big, buzzing guitar noise with intelligent excoriating anti-authority and anti-personal lyrics sung by Mario Jimenez. Co-produced by World Dom label owner (and former Gang of 4, Shriekback and Low Pop Suicide bassist) Dave Allen, songs like “Written Apology,” “Sheepshit” and “Super Monkey” thunder along tightly, avoiding bluster while managing ferocious pressure. The only thing missing is any individual style.
With ace producer Ted Nicely’s help, Stanford Prison Experiment hit upon a more focused plan for its second album, and set about becoming a West Coast Fugazi on The Gato Hunch. Guitarist Mike Starkey’s clangorous feedback-edged razor burns and the Davey Latter/Mark Fraser rhythm section’s steady foot-shifting power clearly set the sonic agenda, while Jimenez — tilting his voice at a familiar semi-melodic D of C angle — sings out impressionistically expressed anger at everything from God to conformists to “Hardcore Idiot.” For all the derivation, The Gato Hunch is a much more focused and compelling album than the debut and leaves the impression than this Experiment might ultimately discover something worth knowing.