The term "arrested development" takes on new meaning with the release of the Ottomen's Back to the Past. Best known for its slightly ragged, punk-inflected rock & roll and a happy-go-lucky stage presence, the revolving collective is composed of five grown-ass men playing songs about He-Man toys, sea-creatures and the detritus of their childhoods. If the lyrics are juvenile (and they are), the musicianship picks up the slack. Pubes/Sex Robots leader Mario Viele shares guitar duties with Justin DiCenzo, taking a break from his main gig as an ace upright bass player. And while the guitars are in the hands of professionals, these songs center on band leader David "Misung" Stevenson and his fixations on sci-fi and '80s pop culture. Stevenson's baritone voice hits John Linnell levels of depth and austerity, especially on "Not Love Song," which accents the song's meta nature with gentle woodwinds and a pleasing glockenspiel melody. It's about as sensitive as things get on this album, which mostly sticks to the Dead Milkmen method of mixing irrepressible rock music with dum-dum lyrics. It's a combination that works for the Ottomen and one that makes Back to the Past a fun listen, at least for the first few spins.
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