If Neko Case had Her Boyfriends, Jane Tarry has Her Sidearms. Flanked by the flashy fraternal rhythm section of Dan and Nick Abbate, the audacious guitarist Stefan Turner and the tasteful keyboardist Lawson Bennett, Tarry's new Raleigh quintet, Knock Out Roses, offers surprisingly diverse takes on sassy Southern rock, especially for such a recent addition. In fact, each of the seven cuts on this debut EP stands as its own representation of the path the band might take from here. While closer "Sleeps with a Silence" stares out ruminatively over major piano and acoustic guitar chords, "Reach For Me" pounds ahead in defiance, tense electric guitar wrapping around Bennett's piano and Tarry's incensed interrogation. And for all the still moments and circular guitar patterns of patient riser "Brother," they find their foil in "Talk is Cheap," a restless, demented power-pop come-on that demands more than words and lust—you know, real emotion, expensive romance.
The common threads between these pieces, then, are the band's rigorous rock confidence and Tarry's torchy voice—a strong, soulful instrument that's as capable of those rockers as it is of those whispers. Unfortunately, there's also the matter of cliché: As capable as they are, the band occasionally lets its rock slip to the mundane side of menacing. And while she shines in the verses, Tarry's hooks are generally but flattened aphorisms, or nothing phrases that are better for belting than believing.