Division of Laura Lee

Black City (Epitaph/Burning Heart)

If you're of a certain age, maintain a decent amount of sexual suggestiveness and bratty rebelliousness, and, most importantly, hail from Sweden, then we've got some good news: Your band may already be rock's next big thing!

Division of Laura Lee meets all the prerequisites, and although its members missed the unwritten rule about "no stupid band names," they do manage to make defiant ruckus and moody melody on their full-length debut, Black City. Because of their Swedish roots, the members of DOLL will have to endure their fair share of Hives comparisons -- not that they'd mind, just so long as they get a fraction of that band's buzz. But the truth is, DOLL don't sound much like the Hives. Both groups favor punk-rock numbers, but DOLL also has a penchant for Jesus and Mary Chain-style psychedelia. Originality isn't the group's strong suit -- on Black City,you can check off its influences one by one -- but what it does have is a winning ferocity. Even the downtempo songs hum with menace.

On the more aggressive songs, lead singer Per Stalberg enjoys biting into the memorable lyrical bits -- you know, the kinds of things you see emblazoned on tour shirts: "I would never run; you got nothing on me," "I'm not your toy for penetration," "Money protects your fall," and, lest we forget, "The truth is fucked." But these aren't just empty poses; DOLL's clean, direct sound adds immediacy to Black City's bluster. Other than some car-alarm sound effects (which give the album the desperate atmosphere of an anonymous urban shithole), the band is refreshingly spare in its production.

Although Black City leans toward a simplistic, cocky insolence, the best moments are more complicated thematically and musically. "I Guess I'm Healed," which features an eerie keyboard drone that wouldn't have been out of place on the first Doors LP, finds Stalberg struggling for emotional balance and peace of mind. Then, to close the record on a high note, "Wild and Crazy" kicks out assorted jams and vulgarities as it bids farewell to a tormented, highly sexual relationship.

The worst you can say about Division of Laura Lee is that its engaging rock music isn't breaking any new ground. But so what? At least the band marks time well. In other words, another great opening-act band is born.

 
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