The Hellacopters

Rock & Roll Is Dead (Universal International)

Jeez-o-pete if Sweden's favorite sons-a-bitches the Hellacopters don't fly outta the gate with a swell Chuck Berry-cum-MC5 rezip ("Before the Fall") — distorted, fast, a little Sha-Na-Na, but a definite wee-hoo! Surely they're back to the nitro-burning of their mid-'90s daze.

Well, not exactly. Nicke Andersson's lead vocals aren't as over-overdubbed here, and this one's a bit less polished than the past few CDs, on which the Hellacopters were trying to get a little more listener-friendly. And yet Rock & Roll Is Dead quickly settles into the familiar, chromed-up, Radio Birdman-arm-wrestles-Boston-arena-pop of the band's latter era.

"Everything's on T.V." rewrites a couple of tunes from By the Grace of Godbut is instantly sticky; huge choruses come quick ("No Angel to Lay Me Down," the speedy "Bring It on Home"). Even when the songs start to blur into the Thin Lizzy run-amoks these guys can whip up passed out, the 'Copters are able to rustle that doze with twists like the girly backup vocals on the '70s Stones-about "Leave It Alone" or the sweet minor chords on "Make It Tonight."

So, Rock & Roll is top-heavy and not the group's best output. But Hellacopter loyalists don't really care that these guys write and record fairly quickly, because the explosively fun tours are a nice tradeoff. And really, if it's big hook/torn jeans/capital-R rock you dig, few do it better.

 
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