999

999

999

The great pop-art album jacket for 999’s 1978 debut perfectly mirrors the content within: spiffy punk-pop (inspired by mid-’70s pub rock and ’60s Merseybeat) complete with speedy eighth-note bass charges, relentless open-chording, and up-a-fifth harmonies on about every chorus. The music’s as colorful as a candy factory, as if 999 purposely attempted to create a full-length album out of three-minute singles. What keeps it from being swallowed whole by its own histrionically inclined spirit and Nick Cash’s relentless tenor is that there are real guts under the sugary spazz: R&B breaks (“Me and My Desire”), durable power grooves (“I’m Alive,” “Direction Action Briefing”), and good AOR-style rock (“Titanic [My Over] Reaction”). The minor hit “Emergency” (which the AOR band Foreigner lifted for their huge hit 1981 hit “Urgent”) is 999 at their best: better-than-boilerplate chord changes and harmonies upholding simple lyrics detailing personal panics. It’s a well-executed album, and the songs bounce hard in the skull even after they end, lasting a little longer than that sugar buzz you get from too much candy.

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