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Fremont Chic

For those who don't know, has built a reputation with their harder edge performances at venues like The Skylark in Seattle, laying out slash and burn semi-punk with a pop edge not unlike the better new wave bands of the mid-70s (The Hounds, The Dead Boys, The Zeros). Fronted by high-energy vocalist Carla Bueno and propelled by the blistering guitars of Steve Connelly and Ty Lambrecht, they logged enough hours of sweat to keep flying and fly they do on their latest, Fremont Chic.

Not that their earlier CD didn't have its points, but this is a step forward, to my ears. The in-your-face attitude and guitars bordering on metal were interesting at the very least and at times were downright exhilarating, but Fremont Chic puts the band another rung up the ladder. For one thing, they reined in Bueno's vocals, though 'reined in' is possibly not the term I'm looking for here. A little chamber here, a good mix there and we are finally hearing the Carla Bueno we only had a hint of before, her performance going from good to damn good. Add the fact that the songwriting is stronger and the sound more controlled and they're practically a brand new band. You want the more primal Nine N Out, get their first self-titled CD. If you want something with hooks and a slightly different direction, get Fremont Chic.

There are freaky people everywhere and people watching is a team sport, or so the title track hints. Why not Fremont? Bottom-lining Fremont Chic (the track) with Hounds-like guitar, chunky rhythms and a smooth chorus, the band raises their own bar. They move past the three-minute machine gun punk they used to play into the realm of rock. If you want to argue, I give you (Beginning to Think) You Don't Care, a song which could very well be one of those '70s new wave songs of note. The attitude, if it is there, is romantic and tongue-in-cheek, pulled off very well indeed, Bueno's vocals perfecto in a Patti Smyth (Scandal) vein and the background aaahs spot on. Better Day has a bit of The Leopards in it, they of Kansas City legend and purveyors of the mid-period Kinks sound. Again, Bueno nails the voice and the guys pick up their vocal load as well (harmonied, too!). This is pop, my friends, and good pop at that. And dig the dual guitars! Smooooth. You want arena rock? Jesse will have those lighters above your heads before you even realize it. Great rhythm crunch, baseball, high heels and the hint of unseemly romance. Throw a class rock lead in the mix and it doesn't get better than that. They end it all with the anthemic Demon Inside, full band chorus supporting Bueno until she ends it with fadeout. Good rocking stuff, this. Makes you want to shout, ?Thank you, Seattle! , everybody!?, as every good show should end.

Oh, I should mention that there have been personnel changes since Fremont Chic was released. Ty Lambrecht has exited and bassist Eric Goranson has given way to Darryl Buske, but the core (Bueno, Connelly and drummer Joe Lee) is still there and the music is no doubt as good as ever. If you need a good night out and happen to be around Seattle, check to see if Nine N Out is scheduled. If Fremont Chic is any indication at all, that could be one hoppin' night!

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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