Friday, May 24; Galaxy

May 22, 2002 at 4:00 am
Anglophilic American rock bands have been around as long as the queen herself. Yet by infusing Britpop-influenced "live by the hook, die by the hook" sensibilities and barbed wordplay with a sweaty Southern energy, the Tennessee quartet Superdrag avoids sounding fey or overly reverential (like the Dandy Warhols, for instance). The melodies wouldn't sound out of place on a Blur or Bluetones record, but they're juiced up by the band's impressive fierceness.

And lest you think that energy is a creation of studio trickery, know that Superdrag put Weezer to shame when they toured together a few years back. That was back in Superdrag's commercial heyday, when you couldn't turn on The Point without hearing their vitriolic sneer at major-label careerism, "Sucked Out." After debut album Regretfully Yours' near-flawless follow-up, Head Trip in Every Key, went criminally unheard, the band jumped ship from Elektra to record In the Valley of Dying Stars for indie label Arena Rock, perhaps making "Sucked Out" unintentionally prophetic. Stars ranks with the band's best work, with catchy standouts such as "Gimme Animosity" and "Bright Pavilions" and a bit of R.E.M. influence on "Keep It Close to Me."

Superdrag's fourth album, Last Call for Vitriol (due out later this summer) looks to be a new high-water point, however. It's the band's most sonically intense work yet, even more dressed down than their past three albums and complemented by songwriter John Davis' expulsion of some personal demons. Much of the Vitriol material will rear its head on this warm-up tour, done up with style by these Southern gentlemen.