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Pink Spiders

Suretone/Geffen

2006 is shaping up to be the year of the chemically engineered rock bomb. She Wants Revenge is a West Coast clone of Interpol; Rock Kills Kid make U2 anthems dressed up in angular hipster hair; and the Pink Spiders—well, if the Mooney Suzuki were a stellar indie band who showed up five minutes late to 2003’s major-label garage-rock party, the Spiders are wedding crashers who stumbled in after the bar’s been drunk dry. Their live show is an orgy of sunglass-rocking, amp-leaping, dirty rock’n’roll charisma, only dressed up in pink fur and loads of teen ’tude. But Teenage Graffiti is an album so cloying that tossed-off badass lyrics such as “These New York City police are all fuckin’ liars” (from opening track “Soft Smoke”) stick out like Nicole Richie’s hip bones. The Spiders are garage rock only in ethos: Their sound is a lot more akin to pop-punk like Bowling for Soup and the Click Five than the Hives. And despite—or maybe because of—their sugary, glittery production, several songs from the group’s Ric Ocasek–produced debut have the kind of giddy appeal that make Ashlee Simpson and Avril Lavigne albums the perfect thing to listen to while picking sand out of your bathing suit. First single “Little Razorblade” runs on the Cars’ ’50s-rock cruise control, with a catchy, easy-to-digest, poppy hook. “Easy Way Out” is a choppy rocker that bites Guns N’ Roses’ “Mr. Brownstone.” And “Modern Swinger,” a probably unnecessary update of Wheatus’ hit “Teenage Dirtbag,” brings a jagged guitar riff into step with chugging guitars and an irresistible chorus: “I’m just another substance abuser/But baby I’m the future.” All through the LP, tight harmonies are jammed on top of sing-songy verses, clap-along choruses, and teen-movie-ready sentiments (house parties, puppy love) that clash uncomfortably with some grittier subject matter (drug addiction, prostitution). When the Pink Spiders played a showcase for New York City critics in November 2005, the Gotham-via-Nashville outfit tried to show how sexy, how partied out, how rock ’n’ roll, man, their power-punk could be. But their posturing was about as convincing as Clay Aiken’s heterosexuality. And though recent rock history has taught us nothing but that simulations can be just as good, if not better, than the real thing—Exhibit A: Wolfmother pulling off a wicked Sabbath impression on Leno—if Ocasek could only have found a way to calibrate the band’s attitude with its melodies on Teenage Graffiti, this cherry bomb wouldn’t feel like such a dud.—Caryn Ganz