The Hard Way (Skeleton Crew Records)

Architects 

The Hard Way
(Skeleton Crew Records)

Guns, justice and fate may be the main themes here, but they don't keep The Hard Way from being a party. On its fourth album, the Architects continues its quest to fuse punk grit with the pomp, theatrics and catchiness of arena rock, a mission that the group began in earnest with last year's Vice. Whereas that record was at times hampered by its urgent intensity, The Hard Way finds the band dialing back its onslaught from flamethrower to shotgun, resulting in an album that's more listener-friendly without being any less fierce. Musically, the band is total pro, executing shameless but smart rip-offs of AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" ("Rope to Hang From"), Tom Petty's "Refugee" ("I Carry a Gun") and the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" ("This Wasted Ocean"), taking classic, recognizable riffs and — as a film-soundtrack composer might — working them into fresh, new melodic structures. In fact, CBS producers could have their pick of Hard Way songs for the next CSI spinoff's opening sequence. There is sharp original material, too, such as the boogie-hollerin' jail song "Big Iron Gate" and the jittery, coked-up nightlife satire "Knowing Is Half the Bottle." In a sonically wise move, the group has winnowed the chorus vocals to bring Brandon Phillips front and center. One is tempted to use clichés like soulful and gravelly in describing the man's voice. Fuck that — fighter jets explode in midair when that motherfucker yells. 

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