Agent Sparks

Grunge as it could only be interpreted on the Sunset Strip, Red Rover is perhaps the ultimate set piece. On Agent Sparks' debut album, these Angelinos recast mid-Nineties Northwest sludge as artful noise, full of thick, rolling bass lines and sculpted squalls of feedback. The band's parallel universe imagines Cobain less idiot than savant, a welcome suggestion even if rebutted by those claiming inspiration (see: Puddle of Mudd, Fuel). Rover, however, makes no apologies.

"Face the Day" flaunts impressive brawn — muscular riffs underpinned by jab-and-parry drumming. And to their credit, the bandmates aren't selective with their memory, occasionally trading bluntness for more overtly melodic arrangements (e.g., "Funny Foolish," "Beautiful True") — something lost on many of grunge's more formal disciples. Despite its short running time, Red Rover accomplishes its modest aims, offering a revisionist history of a bygone genre. It's a lie almost convincing enough to believe. — Jonathan Garrett

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