Subrosa - Never Bet The Devil Your Head
2 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
By Tony BonyataWith Nirvana's Kurt Cobain dead, Seattle's Soundgarden disbanded and Pearl Jam left without much more to say, it seems that grunge rock, a heavy, distorted sound that prevailed in the early nineties, is gasping on to it's last breath. Now a day late and couple of bucks short, a Florida based band, Subrosa, has released it's debut album of all-too-familiar, yet at times pleasing, alternative rock.
Subrosa originally started out under the name For Squirrels in 1995. Following a show at the legendary club C.B.G.B. in New York the band's van overturned killing singer Jack Vigliatura and bassist Bill White leaving drummer Jack Griego and guitarist Travis Michael Tooke without a band. After physically recovering from the accident Tooke and Griego recruited bassist and longtime friend Andy Lord, with Tooke taking over the job of lead vocals for what is now Subrosa.
On their debut album, Never Bet The Devil Your Head, Subrosa shamelessly steals tricks from grunge pioneers Nirvana as well as unsuccessfully dabbling in a quirky, bombastic world that only the Pixies could live in comfortably. Inane lyrics ("1,2,3,4,5,6,7 brings you back to the beatle in heaven", for instance) throughout the album don't help much either.
That's not to say that Never Bet The Devil doesn't have it's moments. "Antigen Fiend" has a spirited, punkish feel with Tooke not only giving a strong performance on guitar but screaming out the chorus as if he's exorcising some personal demons. On the opening track "World's Greatest Lover", Tooke does a respectable Frank Black vocal over a rudimentary Iggy and the Stooges rhythm, and on "Buzzard", the album's highlight, the band lights itself on fire for a do-or-die attempt at recapturing grunge's essence.
While not burning any new bridges, Subrosa does manage to keep a flame lit, small as it may be, for grunge rock's smoldering embers.
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