Meteor City Records, 2001
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/08/2002
Solarized is a group who seem to refuse categorization. On the surface, they may seem to be the latest in the now-overflowing genre of stoner rock bands. After all, this is a band whose family tree has at least one branch connected to Monster Magnet.
Yet Solarized is anything but what you'd expect. Think what would happen if Rob Zombie fronted The Damned - or even if Glenn Danzig fronted Monster Magnet. That kind of - but not quite accurately - describes what Driven, the latest release from this New Jersey-based quartet sounds like. It's raw and it's enjoyable - but it does get a little predictable around the midway point.
Guitarist/vocalist James Hogan has absolutely perfected the rock and roll "sneer vocal," injecting just the right amount of attitude into his delivery. Listen to a track like "Dig The Ride," the first full-length track (following a 16-second "Intro") that wakes the listener up from any possible indifference they may have had. The two-guitar attack of Hogan and Dave Toptlenski, backed by the power rhythm section of bassist Mike Fiore and drummer Regina Satana, lets you know that Solarized are by no means what you might have expected them to be.
Many of the tracks on Driven have an air of heaviness to them, all without removing themselves from their boogie-rock roots. Tracks like "Chrome Shop," "Conspiracy" and "Meanspirit" all are ample proof of this. And the full-throttle cover of The Damned's "Stab Your Back" should be more than enough to drive people into the used record stores to (re)discover one of the founding fathers of British punk rock.
Yet Driven follows a simple formula - and at times it feels like that formula grows a little threadbare. "Box Full Of Dirt" and "Angel" both are tracks which came at a time when the full power of Solarized should have been in effect, yet these tracks, while not bad by any sense of the word, just don't have the same energy and snap that others on this disc do. By the mid-point of the disc, I found it far too easy to drift off into my own world of thoughts - not a good thing when we're talking about a CD that clocks in at just under 40 minutes.
Still, one can't help but hold out bucketfuls of hope for Solarized. After all, the momentum swings back in their favor by the time the last track, "World Without End," kicks in, and Driven overall is a nice way to spend part of an afternoon. If they tighten up their songwriting and delivery just a little more, Solarized could well be on the verge of becoming a serious force to deal with in the commercial market - and that's something I'm looking forward to.