The logo may be cheesy, the name may scream ‘Hair Rock’, but Cincinnati quartet Electric Citizen have bags of resonance and depth to accompany their melodic sensibilities. Helltown (Ridingeasy) is the band’s third album and is a rolling trip through sinister grooves.
Vocalist Laura Dolan is just the right side of pitchy, her high squeal barely controlled and occasionally laboured yet full of scales and melodious, coming on like a female Ozzy. Opener ‘Heart Attack’ bears this out, her striking delivery soaring above NWOBHM-style riffs, a beefy rhythm section and electric leadwork from Ross Dolan. There’s something Quatro-esque about the following ‘Hide It In The Night’: a Glam / Doom crossover with staggered rhythms, Dolan a snarling blend of the aforementioned Suzi and Joan Jett.
The marvellous ‘Cold Blooded Blue’ maintains a gloomy hostility, with more superb guitars and Nate Wagner’s drums underpinning a murky, slightly fizzing atmosphere. It’s delightfully seventies yet so vital, continuing a recent trend which has seen a rise in popularity for this nostalgic sound. The riff of the balladic yet thrusting ‘Father Time’ is an homage to Tony Iommi, while the mournful, darkened whole with its chilling organ is reminiscent of the proto-Doom peddled by Witch Mountain and Blood Ceremony. ‘Ripper’, meanwhile, does exactly what it says on the cover: Dolan’s throat, gravelly and flawed, roaring over a fast-paced rocker.
What’s noticeable here is the brevity of the tracks. There are no epics: each sortie gets in, tears up the house, then gets out. The returning Nick Vogelpohl’s fluid bassline sets ‘The Pawn’ on another rampage before a slow groove governs the mid-section, that leadwork fast becoming the album’s highlight and also lighting up ‘New Earth’: a somewhat perfunctory yet foot-tapping gambol with the satyrs, further enlivened by a ripping rhythm section.
‘Lunch’ is another staccato screamer with some great dictation of pace, but while enjoyment remains there’s also a growing familiarity which becomes a little tiresome. Closer ‘Mother’s Little Reject’, whilst beginning with a venomous soliloquy and constantly driven by those fulminating sticks, highlights the growing issue: a fairly rigid template and occasionally strained vocalist which is graced by flashes of brilliance. Electric Citizen possesses a spark but needed to generate more stamina and creativity if Helltown was to stand with some of this year’s more vibrant retro honeys.