Weird War If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Bite ‘Em

[Drag City; 2004]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: funkadelic rock
Others: Scene Creamers, Make-Up

Weird War's newest release, If You Can't Beat 'Em, Bite 'Em, is the kind of album you play in your car with the windows rolled down, just so everyone can hear how cool you are. The funk and the good beats create an album that isn't annoyingly retro, and if I wasn't such a socially-retarded dork, I could dance to this music. But there are still enough weak spots to make this album fall short of total success.

Ian Svenonius, Michelle Mae, and Alex Minoff are the new line up for Weird War, and there is no doubt that they are beyond cool. Their unsmiling faces, vintage clothes, and shaggy haircuts come through with every note. So, what does it sound like? Stripped-down and gritty, that's what. The beats make you want to move, driving songs like "Grand Fraud" and "AK-47." Minoff's guitar works overtime on the album, filling out the sound and bringing home the funk. Overall, everything sounds like it was recorded through a tin can, and Svenonius' rough vocals fit right in. Just don't bother listening to the lyrics.

Weird War obviously took some cues from the past, but they manage not to get stuck there. With its roots in the last century, music like this could easily become something terrible. The trio keeps the nostalgia under control, though. Songs like "Tess" and "Licking Stick" avoid being derivative and sound fresh and inventive, borrowing from the past without hijacking it completely.

The biggest failure of If You Can't Beat 'Em is the title track. It gets repetitive quick, and the beat can't revive it. In fact, the entire album suffers from this syndrome to varying degrees. There is a rhythm you can't shake and a sound that leaves you feeling lukewarm. Déjà vu kicks in about halfway down the tracklist.

This isn't an album that is going to make you think. Save it for when you just want to dance around and embarrass yourself. If you're lucky, maybe some of Weird War's coolness might rub off onto you. But don't get your hopes up.

1. Music for Masturbation
2. Grand Fraud
3. Tess
4. If You Can't Beat 'Em, Bite 'Em
5. Moment in Time
6. Store Bought Pot
7. AK-47
9. Chemical Rank
10. Licking Stick
11. One By One

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