Mclusky: The Difference Between You and Me Is that I'm Not on Fire

Based on the album title and the song title and the photos, I was expecting to be greeted by distorto guitars layered beneath some screaming emo singer who was distraught because his life in suburbia is, like, totally meaningless. What I got was something that sounds like the bastard child of John Lydon and Tom Morello.

And I love it.

Nothing here is amazing, but it all comes together to create something greater than its parts. The production is thin and spacious; there's no "wall of sound," but there is definitely a wall of energy. What the band lacks in chops and skill, they more than make up for with creativity and heart. (Don't get me wrong; they have chops, just not the kind they can show off by playing "Stairway to Heaven" in the local guitar shop.) There's something very dark happening in the music, but there's also an undeniable sense of fun. These guys sound as if they want, need, and love to make music together.

Wow. I just re-read that paragraph, and I realized that I wrote the recipe for a great rock album. The Difference Between You and Me Is that I'm Not on Fire may not be great, but it's certainly knocking at the door.

Music: 4 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5
I don't know if it's the production, the performances, or the songwriting, but The Difference reminds me a bit of early P.J. Harvey. (Like Mclusky, P.J. Harvey has been produced by Steve Albini.) The music is sloppy and chaotic, but it moves like a freight train. On the first listen, I got a bit bored by the second half of the album, but it got better and better each time I played it. The weakest part of the album is probably the lyrics; they're either gibberish or genius, and they have the same kind of curious appeal as Soul Coughing's words.

Packaging: 4 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5
The cover photo is striking, but other than establishing a black & white color scheme, I'm not certain how it relates to the album. Every photo in the booklet is strong in its own way, and they all fit the music well. The live photos of the group reflect performers who seem totally engaged with their music, and the silly photos manage to inject some lightness without making the band look like a bunch of clowns. The lyrics are fairly easy to read, although artist Victoria Collier could have bumped up the font-size without compromising the design.

Listen if you like: Public Image Ltd., P.J. Harvey, Flipper, Deftones, Rage Against the Machine

If it were food, it'd be: Wasabi. It surprises and hurts at first, but you're excited to get some more as soon as it fades away.

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