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Although it's self-defeating (and honestly, rather annoying) to argue about what makes a band "authentically punk rock," most fans have one element of the genre they gravitate towards and use as a yardstick of quality. Lately I've found myself obscenely nostalgic for the Regan-era punks that first captured my heart--and most specifically, the petulant, brainy politicos who were equally goofy and gutsy. Whether it was the stunning staccato tantrums of No Means No, the hyperactive sarcasm of the Dead Kennedys, or the rumbling self-righteousness of Big Black, I've always had a soft spot for smart bands that fused their sense of humor to their rage without missing a beat or losing their edge--and it's a trait that I always perceive as a strong evidence of successful art.
It's also a trait that's increasingly rare--and one that can't really be conjured or overtly developed without sounding pointlessly trite. However, the men that make up UK-based trio Mclusky must have popped from the womb already possessing that elusive slap-happy intellect and the natural sense of musical discipline required to pull off such a feat. With a thick rhythm section that's as gleefully buoyant as it is Jesus Lizard-heavy, mixed with the ferociously charismatic vocals of guitarist Andy Falkous and song titles like "The World Loves Us and is Our Bitch" and "White Liberal on White Liberal Action," it's clear they're playing on the same level as the Jello Biafras and Steve Albinis before them.
Appropriately enough, it was Albini himself that engineered the band's sophomore release, Mclusky Do Dallas, the record that brought the buzz to American shores in 2002. He also oversaw recording of their most recent offering, The Difference Between You and Me Is That I'm Not on Fire (Too Pure), an arresting piece of work that's stylistically schizoid, surfing between metallic punk growl, punchy Fugazi-esque bark and highly unexpected and surprisingly effective and tuneful pop flourishes. If you're craving equal parts brain, brawn and comic relief in your punk rock diet, don't pass up the Mclusky buffet.