by Mike Corrigan
Smashed equipment, firecrackers, beer, blood, sweat and abandon in copious quantities. These are the signs by which -- in a live setting at least -- you shall know this band of heavy-hitting, guitar-brandishing miscreants from that mythical hotbed of fine independent rock, Austin, Texas. Take away the first two elements and you've got a pretty decent thumbnail of the shotgun marriage of adrenal rush and intelligent songwriting that is Source Tags & amp; Codes. This quartet creates -- with confidence, swagger and disarming purity -- music that simultaneously bludgeons and heals, that appeals to the brain as well as the gut. With their cacophonous blend of barely contained but lovely No Wave-inspired noise and straight-ahead punk overdrive, it's hard to discern the subtler, more fragile moments buried within. But they're here.
Source Tags & amp; Codes represents a major label jump for the band whose two previous albums (their 1998 self-titled debut and 1999's Madonna) were released on Trance and Merge, respectively. A relatively clean and well-defined production seems to be the only fingerprints left by Interscope's filthy lucre.
Underneath the furious soundscapes, the lyrics reveal a raw emotionalism and desperate romantic imagery. But in songs like "It Was There That I Saw You" and "How Near How Far" the joys are decidedly bittersweet and fleeting, tempered by regret and loss. Even the anthems exhibit a strangely dignified grace -- similar to that which you find radiating aura-like from Clint Eastwood's characters in those great Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns.
"Homage" is a study in tension and release. The sinuous guitar line that sutures the musical elements of "Another Morning Stoner" together weaves an atmosphere of dread. Later on, "How Near How Far" ravishes with soaring vocal melodies, insistent drumming and a chiming electric guitar leading to the song's melancholy signature hook.
Their notoriously violent stage antics aside, buried deep within the band's self-manufactured mythology is an honest passion and a demented dedication to the glory of rock 'n' roll that's thrilling.