MGF Reviews Switches – Lay Down the Law

Switches – Lay Down the Law
Interscope (3/18/08)
Rock / Garage / Alternative

Irony-posturing is the coat of arms for an indie-rock band doing the “garage” thing these days. If you don’t dress like Lou Reed’s stand-in and sing your lyrics like you can think of four better things you could be doing… shit, you might as well not even bother, it would seem.

Well, apparently no one told that to Switches, because on Lay Down the Law they sound like they’re having much more fun than a retro-rocker is allowed. The hipster sneer isn’t missing entirely, but it acts as a little bit of salt to leaven out the trash-rock sugar rush that Switches seem to be having. They don’t get the blend quite perfect here, but with the right kind of ears you can see how the band might be able to approach Strokes territory in a few years.

Leadoff single “Drama Queen” has a Hives-ish punch in the hook and some Beatles-style harmonies to sweeten the melody. This and “Lay Down the Law” are pogo-friendly and adrenaline-charged; they’re all fuzz distortion and high-hat thrash. “Lovin’ It” shows a naked admiration for pop-punk, straight-no-chaser, but the Dick-Dale-meets-Mick-Mars solo gives the track a wider range of influence.

“Message from Yuz” is a cheerleader stomp for the skinny jeans set, and “Stepkids in Love” is a Nuggets-style Hammond jam with hints of the same psychedelic influences that colored some of the best vintage garage bands. As their Beatles-biting habits show, Switches have as much pop in their bloodstream as they do gutbucket rock. “Coming Down” could be a lost Weezer track with a nearly emo-sounding verse and harmonic vocal lines twisting around each other in the chorus. “Killer Karma” is a low-fi mellow number that showcases a simple but pleasurable melody totally fit for a summer camp sing-along.

As a whole, Lay Down the Law lacks that one standout track—any real element of a “wow” factor. Switches aren’t head-and-shoulders better than their peers in the indie-retro-rock world, but they have a few inches’ vertical reach advantage and they make the most out of it. None of their riffs or melodies are especially complex (the CD booklet features the chord signatures above the lyrics, in case you want to play along at home; it’s like retro Guitar Hero!) but taken in one sitting you won’t be bored by this disc. If Switches are just establishing their foothold on the rock world with Lay Down the Law, they should be able to take a step up in the future, and I’m curious to see where it goes.


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