Semifreak's fans have been jonesing for their 8 O'Clock Fix, the debut disc long delayed on its road to release. Entering the studio as "Man in the Shade," the group encountered creative differences between original bassist Chad Williams and its other members, leading to Williams's exodus in early 2002 and arguments over who held rights to the name and the Web site. Rechristening themselves semifreak and recruiting Brian Rosenberg, remainders Billy Coffey, Gary Montoya and Roarke Pulcino kept making music and found funding to finish the album.
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Semifreak claims to be called "Pink Tool" by its fans, a supposed hybrid of Pink Floyd and Tool, but such a crossbred creature never lumbers into the forefront of Fix. Lacking the latter's angry nihilism and the hallucinogenic vibes of the former, the fourteen tracks stand separate from any clear-cut imitation, assembling instead a multitude of stimuli into a sum worthy of its parts. "Stacked 5ths" holds remnants of Metallica; "Copyright" contains subliminal background whispers and didgeridoo; the controlled bass flairs in "Empty" evoke the Red Hot Chili Peppers; and the funk stylings of "Reality" benefit from Hazel Miller's guest vocals. Pulcino's forthright vocals never reach the fiery aggression of Maynard Keener's, the melodies reflective but far from transcendental -- and the superhero comic artwork of the insert defies any "Pink Tool" expectations. 8 O'Clock Fix offers more sturdy indie-rock stylings than copycat mutations; and while it's not revolutionary, it might leave you comfortably numb.