The Charming Snakes - Ammunition (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Charming Snakes

Ammunition (2005)


I loathe Hugh Grant. There, I said it, and I feel better already. Every time I flip through channels, and see him being interviewed, or hear him being talked about, the word "charming" is the first thing out of anyone's mouth. Maybe I'm missing it, but all I see is a smug, middle-aged British man who was arrested for receiving oral sex from an ugly black woman. The actual charge was public indecency, I presume, but to let the hooker in question do that deed is a crime in itself. Ammunition, the debut record from the Charming Snakes, asserts itself in no more charming a manner than Grant, instead offering 10 tracks of dissonant post-punk.

Letting their loud swagger be known right at the outset of things, the crunchy guitars fill out the band's sound right away on "Loon," which provides a loud but bouncy groove carried over by singer Joe Arnone. His voice sounds strikingly like another man familiar with snakes, Rick Froberg of Hot Snakes. The sound is similar enough to notice, but it's not enough to be labeled a carbon copy, though the Charming Snakes are walking quite a fine line on that.

To the band's credit, their job is to rock, and they're if nothing else gifted at what they're trying to do. The formula never deviates much from what's established at the outset: heavy on the distortion, heavy on the swagger. "Epic Jams" is the band's one foray into other sounds, including a saxophone and cello to both liven the mood, and allow themselves to break away from what could quickly grow to be a stagnant style. Their brash, dissonant, and crunchy style can navigate itself through the hooks and bass grooves effectively, but aside from "Jams," it never attempts to leave the path that it's on. There's some tempo shifts here and there, but it's nothing outrageous and nothing spectacular. "Teenage Kut Out" displays the band in its slower gear, and while it's a solid song, it doesn't seem to show the band in their true nature.

The Charming Snakes are at their best when the songs are most dissonant, and Arnone's vocals have a biting snarl to them, a real bad attitude that can't be faked, as with the album's closer "All Great Things." The rhythm here is undeniably catchy, even offering a few somewhat unique chord progressions that aren't present anywhere else on this record.

As far as fun Summer records go, this one has some solid credentials behind it, but for what's played, there's better in the genre to be found. Given the chance to expand on their talents, and maybe put some more of that eerie sounding cello on the next record, this could be a band to look out for. Until then, say no to ugly prostitutes, and any attempt your girlfriend may make to get you to watch a Hugh Grant movie. You'll regret it.