The Atomic Missiles - Are Real (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Atomic Missiles

Are Real (2003)

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There's something unassuming about The Atomic Missiles, an intangible quality that's greater than the sum of it's parts. Are Real provides a curious mix of Bomp-style lo-fi garage with enough pop sensibilities to make a successful alt-rock band. However, rather than tapping into the fashion conscious stream of Television-inspired acts vying for a piece of The Strokes' pie, The Atomic Missiles are charting their own course of deep psychedelic grooves, the occasional burst of punk fury and smarter-then-it-seems lyricism.

Sean Korman's vocals are the real defining feature here and their deadpan monotone that gives the record a unique edge. The band seems to be playing off his vocal style, and as a result the songs always seem slightly slower. It's a bit more laid back then one expects. Of course, this should kill the record's momentum, and at times it comes close, but the band's rhythm section takes it as an opportunity to plant their hooks deeper in your head. The greatest skill of the Atomic Missiles is that when they want the world to slow down and groove just a little more, they succeed more often than not.

This works best on tracks like the "Warm Bed on A Cold Night" and the album opening "The War Is Over." It's here where the Missiles are at their most cohesive, with a Pixies inspired melody and venomous lyrics delivered in Korman's sleepy drone. Over a crunchy garage rhythm he kicks the record off with a delightfully off-kilter call and response of "The television news tell me that the war is over", followed by a charmingly sarcastic group response of "Yeah... yeah... yeah." It's moments like these that should get a smile from fans of the Taking Heads' or Ramones' quirks. The band's forays into safer alt-rock territory are less inspired though. If marketing were no issue, "California" and "How Much Do I Adore You" would quite likely make a splash on modern rock radio, but up against the other material on the record they sound somewhat out of place. On the other hand, fast punk songs like "1999" sound more natural for the band. It's far from the most distinctive stuff out there, but it's a nice counterweight for the slower tempo material.

Are Real isn't a bad effort for what's obviously a young band with a lot of growth ahead of them. They're playing from a solid set of influences but have enough of their own personality that, down the road, The Atomic Missiles could write themselves a truly killer record.