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Universal Freak Out

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Album Review

After three years of almost total inactivity, pretty much everyone had given up on Puny Human — not least the bandmembers themselves, it seems — but the arrival of longtime admirer and drummer John Bongiorno finally spurred the remaining trio back into action, resulting in their third album, Universal Freak Out. Here, once again, the New York area riff rockers combine a healthy sense of humor ("Wake Up Williamsburg," "Northern Drawl," etc.) with dead serious guitar work from driving force Josh Diamond, coming up with an earthy, blue-collar sound, whose understated charms don't exactly make for powerful first impressions. But if typically brief, new millennium attention spans can be breached, Puny Human's quirky amalgam of retro-rock influences and modern-day cynicism steadily make their mark. "Up Not Out" and "Every Brain Cell Is Immense," for instance, boast that jumpy, hard rock funkiness of Clutch (with a little less bong residue at the bottom); "The Bus Will Eventually Crash" and "Planting My Impatience" showcase the band's melodic sensibilities, with vocal harmonies and hot guitar licks that really stick; and even though the high-energy "Party on the 13th Floor" finally pulls out all the stops for a good bout of slam-dancing fun, Universal Freak Out's prime offering still remains the slow-churning blues and power chord punctuations of "Number of the Beauty," which somehow melds Pink Floyd's "Money" with Zep's "Black Dog." Canadian wildman Danko Jones is one of several guest vocalists helping out, but the only one who (not surprisingly) takes charge of his performance, providing an extra adrenaline rush to the already memorable "The Real Johnny Charm." Otherwise, Universal Freak Out is a Puny Human party all the way, and more than worth confirmation of their new lineup's belated but much welcomed return.


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

Taking their name from one of The Incredible Hulk's favorite catchphrases, New York's Puny Human was formed in 1998 by vocalist Jim Starace, guitarist Josh Diamond, bassist Jason Diamond and drummer Iann Robinson (yeah, that's right, the MTV guy). Signing with the Small Stone Record label, the group debuted with 2000's critically lauded Revenge is Easy and contributed a number of tracks to compilations...
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Universal Freak Out, Puny Human
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