Pearlene kicks off its debut record with a nasty, loud cover of Mississippi Fred McDowell's "Burying Ground," replete with howling vocals, staticy guitars, and trash-can drums. It gives you a pretty good idea where the album is headed: the same punk-blues territory covered by bands from the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion to the White Stripes. There is not a whole lot of originality on display, but there is a lot of energy and dirt and competence. Tracks like "In the Beginning" and "Number 8 Highway" sound like the band know their Hound Dog Taylor records pretty well with their frenzied tempos and filthy guitars. "Free to Be on Your Knees" is a solid rocker with some excellent backup vocals; "Whiskey and Gasoline" is a grinding slow blues with mumbled vocals and nasty slide work. The only problem is that just about every song is blindingly derivative — of old timers like Hound Dog Taylor; of punk-blues originators like the Gun Club, Jon Spencer, the Chrome Cranks, and the Scientists; and of new timers like the Soledad Brothers and the White Stripes. If you can't get enough of the punk-blues sound, you may enjoy Pearlene, but to many Pearlene is the punk-blues band that makes it one too many. To paraphrase Jon Spencer: They feel so unnecessary.