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Vic Firecracker mounted the stage at Acme Underground last week looking more ready to grab a beer and a nap than to kick out some rock. Despite their haggard look, they delivered their well-crafted, radio-friendly version of post-punk that bursts at the seams with contagious melodies—their roots aren’t so much shaved-head punk as suburban classic-rock radio and the Replacements. With bassist Desmond O’Reilly backing things up with low-end bass and high-register vocals and Ben Hedlund pounding out solid in-the-pocket grooves, guitarist-singer-songwriter Bob Logan worked his mercurial six-string magic and indie sassy-lassy vocals.
They tore through a variety of strong new and old material, including songs from ’98’s Mixed Not Mastered and a forthcoming EP and full-length. “The Closest Place” was a trancey and anthemic little rocker with a swirling Built to Spill-like bluster. “Monday Car” was driven by an up-tempo, skipping beat that smacked right in the sugar tooth, and its tasty main riff’s crazy, sliding, pull-off finesse belonged in the tablature section of Guitar magazine. That is, if the band were to ever get as big as, say, Everclear. And if Everclear’s Art Alexakis were a far better guitarist with a much better record collection, then Everclear might come off sounding something like Vic Firecracker.
While the dark and semi-depressing Acme basement wasn’t packed, a sizable number of fans and friends turned up, hooting and hollering and shaking away any signs of the band’s fatigue caused by their four-hour Beantown-to-Big Apple commute. They’ve been gathering a strong following of indie-rock/hardcore kids back in Boston—where they’ve opened for bands such as Burning Airlines, Promise Ring, Karate, and Rex—and hope to do the same in NYC with frequent weekend gigs.
The band also premiered some brand-new ones that were mellow, acoustic-based, and stripped down. Although they’ve been heavily influenced by the D.C. angular pop pyrotechnics of bands like Jawbox and Shudder to Think, Vic’s realizing you can only take the slide rule + RAT pedal + protractor formula so far before you needlessly clutter up the flow of a well-intended song. Perhaps because of a stint as the backing band for Boston c&w artist Tom Leach, a subtle but increasingly pronounced twang is emerging from Logan’s sinewy songs. Their upcoming EP, due in September, contains their most straight-up pop—sewn with c&w embroidered bits—so far. The songs feature more mature songwriting fleshed out with added accompaniment: lap steel, electric piano, and backing guitar and vocals. But the boys ain’t goin’ “y’all-ternative” on us just yet. They still rock it angst-fueled and crank the classic over-driven Fender Twin. After all, even in their older, mathier songs, melody and hooks were always way up front.