Freak Accident The Freak Accident

In his old band, irritable Bay Area noiseniks Victims Family, Ralph Spight smothered his pop instincts under a thick porridge of art-damaged punk funk, shrieking distortion and pained yowls. But on The Freak Accident, his new project’s eponymous debut, Spight’s gone positively Bob Mould on us. His guitar playing is still bloody-knuckle raw and his nervy warble still charmingly off-key, but the flagrant tunefulness of indie rock finger-poppers like opener "Ex-Wife” suggests that his creative genius has been wholly misapplied. And while the album’s hooks-per-minute ratio is considerably higher than most things bearing the none-more-abrasive Alternative Tentacles logo, it’s hardly Heartbeat City. You can take the grizzled art-punk out of the underground, but you’ll never get all the fuzz ("The Vulture’s Breakfast”), venom ("Chinese Phrasebook”) and weirdness (the Latin-tinged, surf-twang freak-out "Free to Be Freaks”) completely out of his system. Punks rarely age gracefully, but if you’ve got to have a mid-life crisis, this is certainly the way to do it. (Alternative Tentacles)