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Local rock threesome Medic Medic releases studio debut 

click to enlarge Decategorizing: Medic Medic
  • Decategorizing: Medic Medic

Medic Medic's debut studio full-length CD easily conjures the coming-of-age of any boy who was in the sixth grade in 1994: that Beavis and Butthead-driven quest for something that rocks; playing broomstick guitars with your brothers to albums called Core, Dirt and Bleach; and naming your pillows Claire Danes and Liz Phair. As the waiting time before the past becomes "retro" continues to shrink, can it be long before we again trade our Members Only jackets for flannels, and flock by the hundreds to a Laga-type club and drunkenly dance to "Seether?"

Not to say that Medic Medic blatantly plays '90s rock. But there are certainly elements of it in this Crafton-and-Ingram-area threesome. Originally known as Ephemeris when it began back in 2003, the band manipulates the shrapnel of grunge, riot-grrl post-punk and disco into a modern paradigm of driving, metallic pop music that's as deafening as it is danceable.

One element of grunge that Medic Medic fortunately avoids is its tendency toward monosyllabic album titles. Instead, the band brings us The Horse We Rode In On & The Lambs We Took With Us, recorded earlier this year at Brooklyn's prestigious Studio G under the knob-tweaking of engineer Joel Hamilton, who co-produced with Medic Medic. (Hamilton's résumé also includes some final cuts for Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and Mike Watt, to name a few.)

The album's opening track, "Mourning Star," gets right to the point of what vocalist and lyricist Nicole Ranalli's voice can do. Elements of PJ Harvey-like breathiness combined with Corinne Tucker-esque falsetto shrieks take the lead over an adrenaline-inducing rhythm section comprised of guitar and drums. Guitarist Phil Blythe-Supan brings forth a Melvins-by-way-of-Hum style of infectious guitar sludge, also lending his heroic baritone on "Bend," "Make Me Better" and "Birthday March." Last but not least, the barely legal, spider-armed drummer Jesse Levi thumps away flawlessly, not missing a beat.

The 10 songs on The Horse meld without sacrificing any momentum as each track oozes out angst-filled observations on the domino effect of our self-destructive culture. "Hey you know, you drive me crazy / All your eyes, make me so hazy / I forgot to wear my make up / But I'm so cool, so shut the fuck up," Ranalli wails on "Thee Eyes," a good example of Medic Medic's straightforward method of using a melodic hook or menacing riff to channel chaotic emotions. Yet Rannali and Blythe-Supan claim that their music does not harbor hopelessness. "If we want to write a love song, we write a love song," says Ranalli.

Whether the band's rants are to be taken seriously or just as ironic jest, at least consider that Medic Medic is successfully decategorizing the bass-free guitar-rock sub-genre. Despite sharing a stage with heavy-duty duo Local H in 2005, they are by no means attempting to replicate the emptiness of The White Stripes or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Rather, guitarist Blythe-Supan strategically employs a Marshall bass cabinet both on stage and in the studio, making for a dense battle of frequencies sure to fool a first-time listener into thinking there is a bass player.

So even if the '90s bug doesn't come knocking anytime soon, Medic Medic will continue to create a sort of hard rock that is polished enough for WXDX-style radio, but smart enough to remain independent in an industry with too many rules.

And by the way, that sixth-grader in 1994? That was me.

Medic Medic CD release with The Fitt and The Smut Project. 10 p.m. Fri., Sept. 14. The 31st Street Pub, 3101 Penn Ave., Strip District. $5. 412-391-8334 or www.31stpub.com

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