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Soundbite

Our critics' picks in new releases

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Smoke a joint. Play a game of MegaTouch. Maybe take out the garbage. There's not much you can do in three minutes--at least well--with the exception of a pop song. It might be a little soon to welcome The Cartridge Family to the pop pantheon, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a recent local act that's opened their album with three catchier tracks.

Each of the band's three main songwriters--keyboardist Gregory Rice, bassist C.J. Irwin and guitarist Joe Rechel--contributes a song to the opening, setting their debut off on a stratospheric trajectory. A mix of swaggering Stonesy country rawk and rocket-fuel British Invasion garage rock, Here Come the Rock Stars blasts like a demolition crew covering "Pomp & Circumstance" or Drive By Truckers taking on The Faces.

"It's not so bad with a bottle, in a bag," sings Irwin of "Raleigh," on the opener. The harmonica offers the rootsy feel of a Band tune, but by the conclusion its organ-led bounce and Irwin's vocal wail recall a homespun "Personality Crisis." Rice's "Didn't Find Out" is a rabid rave-up whose woozy sway is keyed to the guitar's Sticky Fingers country whine, while Rechel's "Raggedy" epitomizes the quartet's ragamuffin rock ethos. Each of the three songwriters make a second pass closing the album's first half, and the results are almost as good, highlighted by Rechel's piano-driven "How Can This Be," whose five-minute length is almost its undoing, rescued by its uniquely laconic, melancholy tone. (It's followed by the more typically irreverent "Rollin' Stoned.")

The second half of the album flags a little, lacking the energy of the first half-dozen tracks and failing in its late-album attempts at songs that stretch beyond the magical four-minute mark. The exception is the brief "Anything and Everything," a punky number that percolates with the rambunctious, anarchic energy of Richard Hell and The Voidoids. Producer Rob Farris does an excellent job of catching The Cartridge Family's ample live energy, and if this were culled to a seven-song EP, it'd be the rockinest thing released locally this year.

The Cartridge Family's CD release party is at Kings on Saturday, Oct. 22. Fake Swedish opens.

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