The River Bed (Lookout!)

Small Brown Bike 

The River Bed (Lookout!)

The proliferation of spiky-haired, spring-loaded, mall-bred baby bands who claim to keep the Class of '76's torch burning today might signal that punk rock -- once again -- has kicked the bucket. However, one listen to the Lookout! debut and third full-length from underground vets Small Brown Bike reveals that this fatalistic belief is sorely off base. Like their kindred musical souls in Thursday and Brand New, the Michigan quartet asks listeners to use brains instead of brawn to react to The River Bed's reflective tunes. Moody, melodic chords chime over sheets of noise on "What's Missing Is Dead" and the haunting relationship crack-up "The Outline of Your Hand Remains on My Hand." Elsewhere, three-part harmonic angst soars on the Piebaldesque "Day and Nightmares." Driving bits of hardcore such as "Safe in Sound" are fantastically intense, but SBB reaches beyond punk's narrow boundaries with similarly excellent results. "Sincerely Yours" burns like the Cure's darkest Disintegration moments mingling with A Perfect Circle's brooding metal, and album closer "A Lesson to Remember" adds pedal steel for effect. The nearly flawless River Bed proves that SBB is one of the brightest hopes for Punk Rock, Version 2003.

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