Guitar pop has its time and its place. Artists like Fountains of Wayne and Matthew Sweet still have legions of fans even though they haven’t had a hit since the 90s or early 2000s. New York one-man band The Muggies seem happy to co-opt that sound while adding their own twists and turns on the genre.
First Album opens with “Kiss Me Jane,” perhaps the best track on the record. The track has an almost punk feel to it with the sloppy guitars and high-energy hand-clapped filled beat. The vocals have a slight drawl on them where on the last note of every line singer Josh Paladini will start on one note and then descend to another. This technique is reminiscent of 90s alternative bands like Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots. And while this vocal effect works on “Kiss Me Jane,” it quickly gets old when used song and song again.
Other tracks like “You Built Castles” and “Julie in a Bottle” vary the pace and style of “Kiss Me Jane” and allow Paladini the chance to hold out the ending syllables of lines even longer, which almost enhances the annoyance. Even though both the tracks contain amazing psychedelic guitar solos, it is not enough to overcome the vocal styling.
It is not until the end of the record that Paladini finally breaks the vocal monotony. “Yokohama” and “Funky Lurch” see Paladini ending lines succinctly, and both songs truly benefit. Featuring vintage organs and a jaunty beat, “Yokohama” might be the sunniest song on the album. “Funky Lurch” does not enjoy the same six sass, not because of the vocals but more because of the songwriting and mastering. The chorus is one of the least memorable on the album with the noisy instrumental overtaking the vocals.
In the end, First Album is exactly that, a misstep of the debut. While “Kiss Me Jane” and “Yokohama” show great promise, much of the album suffers from a certain sameness that cannot be overcome. As Paladini grows and becomes a more dynamic vocalist, The Muggies could truly be something because instrumentally the album is fairly spot on. But for now, Paladini has some work to do.