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Cleveland's Vacancies are yet another group that's walking the ledge of genuine unpredictability in a day and age of cut-and-serve pretentiousness. For this reason, their decidedly unpretentious howl comes off like the gospel -- even if it's the gospel you've heard 8 million times before. As their name denotes, their stance is decidedly dead-end, and their sound is the crash and burn of a wasted youth coming to fruition as early adulthood. The band is definitely aware of the glorious punk legacy it is following in the path of -- the Dead Boys, in particular -- but, at the same time, they're less self-consciously "retro" than other "rock revival" bands like the Agenda, the Mooney Suzuki, and the White Stripes.

The title track urges "I can't stand up for falling down" and is almost metallic in its scissoring riff patterns, but the Vacancies aren't just another tuneless bunch of rivetheads cranking it up without any thought to musical dynamics (just listen to "Burn"'s dancing bass line). As the anthemic "Saturday Saints" -- an almost-Wayne Kramer bout of tuneful righteous indignation -- proves, the Vacancies are capable of standing on the front line of current rock standards. "Hellbelow" is a perfect example of the band's incendiary full-throttle approach, and it's been a long time since anyone's done anything like "Get Love," where every riff, lick, and melodic nuance is used to build maximum excitement. This is the whole meaning of rock 'n' roll, and the Vacancies-like peers the Agenda, the Points, and the Pattern understand this. Once again, faster/louder holds all the keys.

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Joe S. Harrington

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