If there is one complaint to be made about punk, or punk rock, or just plain rock music these days, it would have to be that most bands take themselves way too seriously. When one does find an inkling of humor embedded in a punk song, it is of the bitter sort, eliciting a spitting, harsh laughter bereft of any joy.
Granted, times are serious, and punk bands are usually commenting on the things that piss them off -- not puppies or flowers or what they find amusing. That said, it's a relief to see, and hear, a band like Reagan National Crash Diet. From the opening lines of "Ghetto Sled," on its disc Administration, it becomes immediately apparent that these boys and girls have a sense of humor. Over a fast beat as forceful and sloppy and relentless as the car they describe, singer Chris Auman informs us: "I don't come from the ghetto/I don't live in the ghetto.../But I drive around town in my ghetto sled/And I hate it when the light turns red." And the music is nice and hard, too, crunchy and atonal, but catchy in the vein of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion -- wild and pounding, and daring the listener to join in near the edge of chaos. RNCD is good at drawing you back from the brink of the abyss with infectious beats and guitar lines written in such a way that they hook the listener without seeming heavy-handed or jingly.
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Auman sings with the assurance of the mad. He's a wild troubadour of lunacy, crooning songs of love and steel. Besides his half-shouted, half-moaned lyrics, what stands out are the guitars and the drums. The entire band is a tight package, pounding along through rhythms that are speedy and energetic but not overly thrashy. Reagan National Crash Diet is punk without the doom and "woe-is-me" sentimental self-pity, deranged pop without the sugar and oversimplified dumbness. A definite keeper.