Fans of hand-clappin', booty-shaking California stoner pop (i.e. FU MANCHU's "California Crossing" album, the most straightforward QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE cuts, or a lot of the HELLACOPTERS' output) may want to check out THE MATADORS. They're not the most distinctive band in the world, but they do deliver low-watt thrills in a well-mined genre.
The band's biggest drawback are the vocals — they're delivered in that slacker "dude" voice the way FU MANCHU does it, where every line ends in a shrug to mask the fact that the guy behind the mic can't sing. But while it works most of the time in that band, THE MATADORS' Andreas Bergström just can't cut it here. It's a mild distraction on their best songs, but occasionally he hits a note that just tanks an otherwise good tune.
Get past that, and you'll find some intermittently fun party-rock anthems, with plenty of swagger and cheek to spare. "Down the Fair" is a total ripoff of QOTSA's first album, but it's still a great song, full of '70s swagger and that driving, droning, deceptively simple guitar. "Senor Ray" adds a tasty touch of flamenco guitar, handclaps, and plenty of female backing vocals and "ooh! aah!" grunts straight out of a TYPE O NEGATIVE dirge. Still, the most memorable thing about the song is the very Homme-esque guitar tone and melody line.
If it seems like other bands have been mentioned more than THE MATADORS themselves so far, there's a reason for that. These guys are crafty thieves at best, putting together fun and head-nodding songs, but so indebted to the blueprints of those who came before them, they might as well be a cover band. It'll be interesting to see where they go from here, provided they're not hit with a very justified lawsuit from Homme and company for album closer "Next Episode" (seriously, did they have to add the piano too? It's a laugh-out-loud steal from the song "Go with the Flow").
"The Muse of Senor Ray" came out last year in Europe. This U.S. issue contains, to my knowledge, two bonus tracks, plus a Quicktime video. Less discriminating fuzzrock fans, those looking for good low-calorie summertime driving music, take note. A 7 if you're drinking at a barbecue, a 5 once the buzz wears off and you find your copy of "Songs for the Deaf" under the sofa.