The Tomatoes, The Rise and Fall of the Tomatoes (Revolution Blues)

This is the great grunge album that just never was, released a good ten years too late. But better late than never, especially for a debut this relentless and stunning. The guitars are low-end and drenched in fuzzbox tones, rendering them fat, ugly, and loud. Singer William Burdette’s voice is rough and worn, but powerful, a little like Eddie Vedder after several hours of primal scream therapy. The band’s style is an intoxicating mix of the best elements of grunge, punk, and straight-ahead rock. The album’s best cut, “Hypnosis,” rocks fast and hard during the chorus, only to slow to a heavy churn in the verses. It’s that dynamic that gave bands like Nirvana and the Pixies that special something that helped them change the face of rock music. And here, the effect comes off as refreshing instead of a rehash. And the Tomatoes’ unmistakable sense of humor also sets them apart from other similar bands that usually wallow in their own pity. The song “Green Beans” starts off as a my-girl-left-me ballad (the only moment where the album seems to let up) before building into a speedy punk chorus of, “Hey boy, you better eat your green beans!” And with songs like “She Wore a Yellow Gas Mask,” “Johnny Fly,” and “Back to Baghdad,” you can imagine what it would have sounded like if Joey Ramone had written for Crazy Horse instead of Neil Young.