Primitive Radio Gods
Rocket
(Ergo/Columbia Records)


Chris O'Connor, the singer/songwriter that is Primitive Radio Gods may be the savior of modern rock. His debut album proves that rock with edge, attitude and intelligence is still viable— without grunge.

Despite what the quiet ambiance of Rocket's current across-the-board hit single, "Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth with Money In My Hand," (better known by it's B.B. King-sampled chorus: "I've been downhearted, baby, ever since the day we met") the rest of this album contains plenty of jagged guitar riffs and avant ideas. (On "Motherfucker" he sounds like he's doing a Sammy Hagar imitation with riffing guitars and sirens in the background). And, like the hit single, the rest of the songs on Rocket include lots of samples. "Are You Happy," which turns up midway through the album is almost all spoken word samples atop a drum machine and crunchy guitar backdrop, (which, for the '80s trivia fans out there, fits in the same category as Colourbox's "Hot Doggie" from the 4AD Lonely Is An Eyesore compilation of 1987).

O'Connor proves himself an amiable chameleon through the course of these 10 songs, moving from haunting ambience ("Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth...") to edgy soul ("Who Say,") to electronic, reptilian blues stomp ("The Rise and Fall of OOO Mah") to avant rock danceable collage ("Where The Monkey Meets The Man," "Are You Happy," "Chain Reaction.")

O'Connor manages to sound both garage-y and smoothly electronic, usually within the context of the same song (neat trick, that). And lyrically he presents some polar combinations as well. In "Women," he presents men as nothing more than sex toys for women, but later in "Skin Turns Blue" exclaims that you've got to "break the chains or you'll smother." The album is filled with great lyrical soundbites (as well as all the sampled dialogue O'Connor weaves into the instrumental backgrounds.) "I got a God-given right to smoke whatever I like/so tell me how it got given to you" he half-raps in one song, and in another asks, "hey, are you happy?/Does your sun set high?/If you're not then why?"

Rocket is one of the highest flying, breaking-the-mold albums of the year.