Two things come to mind at a first listen to Austin band Silver Scooter’s new album, The Blue Law: A) it sounds a lot less rock and a lot more country; and B) it also sounds a little bit more, uh, “wussy”, for lack of a better word. Now, to take things in reverse order, I mean “wussy” in that the band kind of seems to be coasting, here. The frantic energy of older songs like “Solid Glass” or “Returning” is almost nowhere to be found. The one possible exception on here has to be the pumping, speeding pop closer, “Crash” — it’s one of the better songs on here, and I think the energy the band puts into the song has a lot to do with that. I guess it’s natural; I mean, how many musicians actually rock harder as they get older? Does it happen? Not if Metallica, the Rolling Stones or Henry Rollins are any indicator, and I think that’s at least partly what happened on Silver Scooter’s third release.
As for point A, the album as a whole is a lot more “country” than what I’ve heard of their previous stuff — “Blue Law” could almost be John Mellencamp or Chris Isaak, what with the jangly guitars and slide and all, if it weren’t for singer/guitarist Scott Garred’s distinctive voice, and “Albert Hall” has a country tinge to it, too, even though it’s a more driving song. “Remembering” features a super-jangly, almost banjo-like guitar, although it couples it with an almost robotic beat, and most of the other tracks on The Blue Law sound pretty close to the slower, already more countryish stuff off their debut, The Other Palm Springs. The high point of the CD, though (beyond “Crash,” as mentioned above), is “Dirty Little Bar”, which starts with some weirdly ’80s-sounding synths and echoey, pounding drums — it’s truly one of the most “different” songs the band’s ever done, and there’s scarcely a hint of country in evidence.
At any rate, despite all that there’s just something about Garred’s flat, matter-of-fact voice that tugs at me. The songs he writes are of the best kind, little vignettes of a life that’s about like yours and mine, just different; no rock-star fantasies, but four normal guys singing songs about life. And in the end, I can’t dislike that too much. On the CD’s second time ’round the CD player, I already found myself singing along with the catchy choruses, and I suspect some of the songs will grow on me with time. It’s just that the band’s previous work has left them some pretty high bars to get over.