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Speedy Recovery

"We're taking this on/and turning you on!" Recover guitarist/shouter Robert Mann screams on "Rodeo and Picasso," the title track of the best debut album in years. This opening assault sends mosh pits all over the nation into an instant free-for-all as the four members of Recover hurl themselves about the stage with reckless abandon. Unfortunately, Recover guitarist/singer Dan Keyes's crooned response, "We have to whisper/bled and blistered," took on a literal meaning last July after a gig in Madison, Wisconsin. "It was 2 a.m., and the only other people on the street were these three drunk jocks," Mann recalls. "They were looking for a fight, so they started calling Dan a faggot." Neither homosexual nor desiring a fight, the painfully thin Keyes declined: "I told them I wasn't going to fight, turned my head, and I got sucker-punched by one of them. He broke my jaw in three places." Mann, bassist Ross Tweedy, and drummer Jimmy Vela chased off the cheap-shot artists, scraped Keyes off the pavement, and took him to the hospital, where his jaw was duly wired shut. Despite this baptism in blood on its first tour, Recover remained undeterred and played a show only five days after the metal was removed. "We called our agent and told him we didn't want to come home -- this is what we want to do with our lives," trumpets Mann.

The members of Recover met in the seventh grade at an Austin, Texas, middle school. Musically gifted but too rowdy for the school band (Tweedy was banned from the music building after being caught in the back room with fresh graffiti and a destroyed drum set), they began a Green Day cover outfit called the School Kids. After a year of playing "When I Come Around" to house parties, the School Kids began writing their own tunes about Texas teenage life, including "Skating Rink," Mann recalls with a chuckle. "We weren't as clever with the song titles back then." The School Kids continued until their sophomore year, when they splintered into two hardcore bands: Like Mechanized Death (Vela, Tweedy, and Keyes) and the Autumn After (Vela and Mann). After a year, something was missing in the equation. "We liked hardcore and melody, so we figured, why not do both?" says Mann. Recover was born in January 2000.

With the four amigos reunited, Recover's experience, chemistry, and prodigious chops quickly metamorphosed into a large local following in Austin. The foursome played a series of gigs at downtown punk palace Emo's, opening for the Impossibles, Boy Sets Fire, and a host of locals. Eager to spread their music far and wide, Recover recorded four songs on the cheap and sold CD-R burns of the session for $2 at their shows. "We must've sold 1000 of those things," Mann marvels. One impressed listener was the Impossibles's singer, Rory Phillips, who sent a copy to his label, the Less Than Jake-owned Fueled by Ramen. Fueled by Ramen was impressed enough to sign Recover and pack the boys off to Mesa, Arizona, to record Rodeo and Picasso with producer Bob Hoag.

After a whirlwind week of recording that required duct-taping Vela's headphones to his head because of "excessive headbanging" and repeatedly expelling a thief from their van in between takes, Recover wrapped up a mind-blowing record that manages to be melodically catchy and sophisticatedly raging all at the same time. Mann's screaming tenor -- contrasting with Keyes's silky baritone -- pasteurizes each song, ensuring freshness with each listen. Rodeo and Picasso's intricate riff-weaving makes it almost impossible to fathom that Recover is composed of 19-year-old high school graduates, not 30-something music-theory MFA holders like Helmet's Page Hamilton. Yet the rambunctious energy bursting out of tracks like "Pardon the Wait" and "The Feel Is Gone" is a dead giveaway. Rodeo and Picasso has a pure, youthful vigor that no amount of Viagra, caffeine, or crystal meth could replicate.

In the meantime, Recover continues to burn up the road, playing every venue imaginable. Recently, the band played a show at a boarding school in Kents Hill, Maine. "It looked like a school that bad kids went to," drawls Mann. "The kids all seemed to be into Korn and stuff like that, so it was cool to expose them to some underground music. We made sure we played our best. After all, it was sponsored by the senior class!"

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Tom Bowker

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