The Muslims first got my attention with their debut single, “Extinction”, though it was a cover of Love’s “My Flash on You” on the flip that caught my eye. I’m always keen on seeing one of my favorite bands of all-time get a nod of recognition, so they were ok by me right off.
Formed in San Diego less than two years ago, they recorded a five-song demo, played around, made a name for themselves, and moved to L.A. The single was released last year, sold out of its limited edition run, and now they’re getting a lot of attention for their uniquely packaged 7-song ep. The 12-inch platter comes in a vinyl edition with a silk screened cover shot full of bullet holes. The cd version of the ep is included inside and adds three bonus tracks, creating a sort-of-but-not-quite debut album. Presumably, a proper debut lp is what’s coming next. Expect lots of hype from the indie blogsphere when it does.
The first two cuts, “Right and Wrong” and “Beside Myself” are the most Strokes-y of the bunch, giving you the impression that vocalist/lyricist Matt Lamkin is some kind of left-coast Julian Casablancas, which he’s not. He could be if he wanted to, but the Muslims are trying on more than one thing here and before you can hang that tag on them, they change things up. “Call It a Day” has them striking a Black Lips pose to good effect. “Future Rock” ups the ante, a reved-up Lou Reed/VU turn as covered by Big Star. “On My Time” is one for the garage rockers, equal parts I don’t care sneer and two-minute pop punch. The last two cuts on the ep attempt to bring some weightier ideas to the table. “Religion” is an apocalyptic dirge, blending open tuned guitars with a wash of organ over a mantra of “don’t need religion, don’t need religion,…” that ends up being very effective. Near the end the cacaphony almost implodes into itself in a beautiful way. Five stars. “America” comes off as more lightweight after that, but provides a good rocking side-closer.
Switching over to the cd version, the first bonus cut was the a-side of their debut single. “Extinction” follows the neo-Strokes forumula, and I liked the Love cover (not included here) better the first time – the jerky yet elegant rhythms of the first Love album fit these guys like a glove. “Nightlife” is a good, jaunty number that strikes me as Jonathan Richman covering mid-solo career Iggy Pop. “Bright Side” gives a hint of the potential The Muslims have as a pop crossover, a bit of 80’s-Brit feel with an anthemic rock chorus and a matter of fact vocal delivery that again makes you think of, well, the Strokes.
It seems to me that the Muslims at this early stage are struggling with a bit of the old split personality. If they continue to mine their indie/pop approach, they could be one of the next big hipster buzz bands, the kind of thing that would hit the bulls eye for people who are looking for indie rock that actually rocks a bit. They’re also a pretty good psychedelic garage band with excellent taste. I’m sure that they prefer to keep it interesting for themselves by not fitting into either mold just yet. Maybe they’ll emerge when they record a full-fledged debut album as some kind of hybrid that creates something new from parts that don’t always seem to fit together just yet. It does make them a band whose name you should remember, and well, I suppose they’ve made that part easy, no?