It's still early in the new year, but Belleville's the Mhurs has become a local band to watch in 2009. Its self-titled debut finds the young quartet playing a mélange of what used to be called alternative rock — inventive guitar playing and a trusty, propulsive rhythm section match bizarre, stream-of-consciousness lyrics. Certain songs, like opening track "Just Like Old Times," have the ballsy swagger of the Stones, while "Persona" rumbles headlong into the fray with the precision and bemused bravado of the Arctic Monkeys. Singer Jonny Maguire is fearless on the microphone: He's still finding his voice and too often he gets lost in the mix, but he ably shifts between styles and remains engaging and confident. Guitarist and producer Carter McKee, who co-owns Suburban Pro Studios, adds a bit of seasoned wisdom while letting his younger band mates follow their follies. The Mhurs' ability to spit out these candy-colored but fairly complex riffs and melodies is a little staggering for such a young band — I can think of several more established local bands that would kill for any six of these songs. And while normally I decry debut albums that drag on for fifteen songs, I'd happily take a dozen more Mhurs tracks.
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