Mr. Russia – Teething

Mr. Russia - Teething

Mr. Russia - Teething

Mr. Russia debuts this year with Teething, a brash punk rock album that runs out of steam long before the music ends. This Chicago four-piece is built with two bass guitars, drums, and synths. Their raw, focused, one dimensional sound moves in one direction, showing flashes of Shellac and The Stooges.

Teething is ten tracks of mostly straight ahead rock beats and steady, fuzzed-out bass and synth lines. Together, the synthesizer and bass often do what could have been accomplished with a single guitar playing power chords. Over this rumbling din, vocals vary between an effectively raw rant and some questionable–sometimes laughable–spoken word.

Despite their flaws, the band can rock. They just don’t know when to stop. Songs that should end in two minutes instead go on for four. And like a chatty suspect under interrogation, the band gives away too much and eventually exposes the album’s other weakness: a lack of urgency. Rock music, especially punk rock, needs visceral energy to move. But on Teething, that energy gets lost somewhere among all the recycled riffs and redundant tones. Thankfully, most of the songs have a fast beat, but that isn’t enough.

Still, Teething has its moments, and all of them are clustered in the middle of the album. “Sneaking Cigarettes” starts rough and the verses are nearly insufferable, but the chorus picks up and is ultimately revived by a nice beat variation. Despite its five and a half minute run, this song shows a lot of promise. Although the vocal cadence of “Flow” isn’t good, the staccato riffing sounds tight. And then, perhaps the album’s best track, “Pretty Girls” is Mr. Russia at their best. The flat vocal delivery works well with the music’s simplicity and driving beat: “You look so precious, prim, proper and clean / a charm school example, perfect and pristine / So keep it together, don’t let it get free / Opinions are ugly, you’re a beauty queen / Pretty girls don’t make mistakes”.

Teething gets ballsy, but most of the album suffers from redundancy and stolid execution. For Mr. Russia, the album’s shortcomings are more likely growing pains than they are a lack of talent. Maybe they’ll show their teeth next time out.