• Tanner
  • Ill Gotten Gains (Caroline) 1995 
  • (Germo)phobic (Headhunter) 1997 

When Ryan Fox left pioneering San Diego quartet Fishwife (the first group to record for Headhunter Records), the band’s three remaining members could’ve hung it up. Instead, they took a summer vacation, then returned as this propulsive, rhythmically taut trio. Following a handful of strong singles, singer/guitarist Gar Wood, bassist Matt Ohlin and drummer Chris Prescott teamed with Drive Like Jehu drummer Mark Trombino to produce their impressive debut. Wood, a far less theatrical vocalist than Fox, strains his (sub)urban tales of alienation through a dry, nasal larynx that works well with Tanner’s angular, dynamic songwriting. Rather than write verse-chorus-verse punk, the trio piles riffs together — sort of a “hey, this would sound great after that” style — and the almost effortless march through complex changeups is engaging, quirky and cool. “Catalogue” is a great example of this skillful approach, as are “Hey Jigsaw” (which suckers the listener in with a loping hook before delivering a fiery gear change in mid-song) and “Guard Dog,” a sinister dirge about paranoia.

[Mark Woodlief]