"I'm never acting my age/ Some things never change," George Hage sings on "This Bottle of Mine," the sixth track from Oso Optimo's debut, The Great American Short Stories. On Stories, Hage and his bandmates—Mike Schroeder on drums and Larry Dempsey on bass—wear attachments to Weezer's Pinkerton and Foo Fighters' The Colour and the Shape on their sleeves. Luckily, they wear them well.
The Raleigh trio spends much of this debut working through its earliest identity crisis, vacillating between crunchy power-pop and gritty alt-rock. Two grungy tracks—powered by the furious drumming of Grohl acolyte Schroeder—kick-start things. Dempsey's solid low end offers a foil to Hage's leading falsettos. Subsequent power-pop number "My Shooting Star" plays like a more aggressive Marvelous 3, and the mid-tempo pop-rock jangle of "Revenge in Am" summons Far Too Jones as augmented by understated synthesizer. "Tongue Tied" meets in that middle before an obligatory late-album acoustic track leads into the verse-chorus closer.
Sure, this seven-track collection isn't exactly cohesive, but Oso Optimo understands the weight of its influences, treating them with competence and flair. In doing so, the band hits on several strengths of its adolescent inspirations. Next time, can it find its own sound?