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The Human Atom Bombs (Burning Heart/Epitaph)


Bless their hearts, the members of the Swedish foursome Randy are in love with rock and roll. Granted, on the title track to its U.S. debut -- a tribute to Little Richard -- Randy mispronounces Macon, Georgia, as "Mason." (From Falco to Shonen Knife, rock has never had its own Nabokov, who wrote far better in English -- his third language -- than most native-speaking authors. But Randy's music stands up just fine next to Abba, and it fares far better than its silly, overrated Swede-rock contemporaries International Noise Conspiracy, not to mention many American punks.

You wouldn't think three-chords-in-a-major-key could still qualify as a clarion call to revolution, much less a rousing kick in the ass. But from frothy little zingers like "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Punk Rock Flu" to new-left, anti-globalization anthems such as "Win or Lose," The Human Atom Bombs delivers lilting punk rave-ups and hopping punkabilly that recalls some of Rancid's finest work. The highlight among seventeen tracks, "Freedom Song" mixes politics and playfulness using international snapshots of populist activism and a juvenile, chimes-of-freedom chorus -- Ramalamadingdong-dingdong -- that preempts critics who dismiss this kind of pub punk as "ramalama."

If Randy has a problem, it's that the group is too enamored with the Clash's first albums. It's all there: Strummer-Jones-like vocal inflections, reggae references, lo-fi 1977 production, the ostentatious use of Spanish. Nonetheless, The Human Atom Bombs is a convincing, exuberantly wrought rock and roll album -- no small feat in any language.

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