Gunfighter Pro-Electric

The major-label rise of Kansas City's Molly McGuire was almost as quick as their fall, as if 1996's phenomenal Lime was released directly to bargain bins. Determined not to suppress the rock, vocalists/guitarists Jason Blackmore and Toby Lawrence cornered drummer Jason Gerken before he joined Shiner and recorded one of the most well-crafted albums in all of alternadom. Each song interlocks with the next in such a fluid way - three gritty tracks kick off the record, with "Blue" washing up with easy-going pop, followed by the monster rock of "My Head Is Gone," then the quietude of "Snow In June." Partly autobiographical in nature, the sinfully sarcastic "What's Really In" features Blackmore's breathy vocals and a smart tip of the hat to Bowie's "Fame" in one of the verses. Lawrence comes into his own as Blackmore's co-crooner, ringing clearly of Sting in "Snow In June" and of Weiland in "The Least Bit." If its energy could be harnessed, his falsetto in "The Floor" (which also cops the bass line from Lime's "Humansville") could melt half the ice in the Hudson Bay. With their lithe bells and sombre piano, the companion pieces "The Ceiling" and "The Floor" hearken back to the prog rock-ish suites of Lime, whereas the unobtrusive violin in "Dreamsickle" bubbles up from My Dying Bride's happier compositions. The curious "Q" sports swirly, Hendrix-esque guitar back-masking, and the unnamed track number 13 pits Blackmore against his four-track, sitting in his bedroom, depressed. Pro-Electric is a testament to the days of zoning out with headphones while grooving to true, cohesive rock albums. (Epitaph)