At the very least, this album gives you three fabulous songs, four if you count a whirlwind ride through Love’s ”7 & 7 Is,” included as a tribute to ’60s garage rock. The others start off sounding more routine. But then how many albums give you any fabulous songs at all?
The Sidewinders are four guys from Arizona, a roots-punk band that followed the practically traditional indie-to-major-label route; this is their second major-label release. Their roots influence keeps the music from sounding obscure; their punk edge keeps it fresh. The mix of the two gives us a song like ”If I Can’t Have You,” in which a folklike strum on an acoustic guitar gets interrupted by blasts of electric noise in a foreign key.
Other songs, such as ”Get Out of That Town” and ”Sara’s Not Sober,” are set apart by their warmth as well as their subjects, which are elaborated by the Sidewinders in vivid detail: a friend who needs to be pried loose from a place that is pretentious and stifling, a woman who turns a guy off by drinking too much. That combination seems to electrify the band’s music, making it reach out with melodic curves as compelling as speech.
I give honorable mention to the final cut, ”Little Boy,” for one striking truth sung in despair by a man describing how he feels after a woman has left him: ”A little boy crept out of me/Drawn out by jealousy.” The remaining songs at least make energetic companions. Listen more than once and you might even find they grow on you.