Superdrag - Last Call for Vitriol (Cover Artwork)


Last Call for Vitriol (2002)

Arena Rock

Feeling depressed and confused and no one seems to understand? Don't worry, Superdrag understands.

Last Call for Vitriol isn't really as angry as the title suggests, but it is emotionally complex. I picked this up hoping for something along the lines of Weezer's quirk or Ted Leo's energy, but instead I got something more like Jimmy Eat World's restrained melancholy. The band certainly has a lot they want to express. And even though this is a good album, their art would probably work even better if channeled through a poetry book instead of a rock recording.

The lyrics are obviously their main emphasis. Singers John Davis and Sam Powers perform very emotional messages with an extremely heartfelt voice. They seem to come close to tears when given an acoustic guitar. (These aren't pre-packaged pop feelings, folks.) It's sad and calm, but not negative and harsh. They've made "The Staggering Genius" a personal anthem of mine. These guys are authentic in every way.

And yes, each song is good--and often great--power pop on its own, but Superdrag doesn't take many risks. As I followed along from one song to the next, it was obvious that they don't like to escape from the same strain of contained, mellow guitar and just plain middle-of-the-road rock and roll. They do manage a few times, sure: "Stu" and "Remain Yer Strange" venture into uppity guitars and fast drum work, and they even have a country ballad-tinged song called "Safe & Warm". (Peculiar sound effects are sprinkled throughout, as well.) But it always felt like the guitarists wanted to belt out a squealing solo, but forced themselves to tone it down, anyway.

And I don't mean that as harsh criticism, either. The music fits the mood like a glove, and it's never boring, either. The album is perfect if you're feeling lonely or puzzled about life…but it's not entirely perfect for any other mood. Don't bring this along on a long car drive, or anything.

A little bit more creativity and imagination really would have unleashed this album to its fullest potential, but I still gladly take it for what it's worth. Gimme some rawer guitars, contrasting vocals, and some unconventional instruments (piano or harmonica, perhaps?) on the next album, Superdrag, and I'll be much happier…until the lyrics pull me back down to Earth, that is.