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With garage rock, critical judgment is almost irrelevant. For one part of the rock audience, the often slavish devotion to the sounds of the past is a hindrance, evidence of stunted creative growth. But another part of the audience would rise up in arms if a garage rock act showed any inclination to evolve – they have no use for the bands if they don’t sound like long-lost artifacts from 1965.
So it’s best, when casting a critical eye on a garage rock band’s latest work, to set aside one’s philosophical faculties and simply ask the questions: are the songs any good? In the case of Motor, the third album from the Ugly Beats, the answer is a definite “Yes.” The Austin quintet hasn’t expanded the boundaries of its jangle-heavy garage pop sound, but it has sharpened its songwriting skills considerably. The pop-rocking “Harm’s Way,” “All Comes Back” and “Things I Need to Know” boast terrific melodies and thoughtful lyrics, while “See” and the lovely “World Has a Ways to Go” spotlight the band’s folk rocking ballad side to wonderful effect. Overall the group is on such a tunesmithing roll that Neil Diamond‘s “You’ll Forget” is easily the least affecting track here. The Ugly Beats haven’t yet made that quantum leap into a timeless sound, but on Motor they’re simply a pure pleasure to hear.
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