Sunday, March 29, 2009

Review: Publik Parking - Pavlov's Dog (2009)

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Pavlov's Dog
Revolution Music Records

Flint, Michigan's Publik Parking is one of the hardest working bands in the state, if not all of the Midwest. Formed in 2003, the female-fronted metal outfit has gigged relentlessly, released 3 EPs, 3 videos, a handful of live CDs, and has consistently ranked high on MySpace indie metal charts. Recently they signed with Revolution Music Records, a local Saginaw-based label, to release their full-length debut Pavlov's Dog. Publik Parking's sound is fed by a number of influential wellsprings, from Lacuna Coil to Korn to Godsmack, lending Pavlov's Dog a definite uniqueness without sacrificing accessibility.

The album kicks off with the Lacuna Coil-ish "Breakdown", one of the more up-tempo songs on Pavlov's Dog. The vocal ebb and flow between frontwoman Monica and guitarist/husband Neiko is the primary reason for the comparison to the Italian Gothic metallers, with Neiko's crunchy guitar tone lending somewhat of a Nu-metal aftertaste to the track. Monica's style is a little hard to pin down, which is great for the band but tough for reviewers. She shares some similarities with Christina Scabbia, but at times there are hints of Shirley Manson and Gwen Stefani in her delivery, while on tracks like "Lose Control" and "Something" she belts out a harsh, aggressive performance. The bottom line, though, is that Monica's vocals are sexy, intimidating, or disarming as the mood of the music warrants.

Neiko's six-string style meshes well with his axe-wielding counterpart Tucker. Overall, the riffs on Pavlov's Dog are of the downtuned, chugging variety with liberal doses of distorted leads. Neiko's solos aren't spectacular, but they are well-executed and feel integral to the songs and not tossed in as an afterthought like so many modern metal bands are inclined to do. "Something" is a track that offers an interesting diversion from the usual guitar work, featuring processed leads to go along with Tucker's grinding riffs and a somewhat tribal beat from drummer Erik. By far my favorite track for guitar melody is "Loathe", with some gritty riffs and plucky leads. Tim's bass, which is predominantly used to drag the album's riffs to grungy depths, stands just a tad apart from the guitars on this track and adds yet another dimension to Publik Parking's sound.

Most of the songs on Pavlov's Dog are mid-tempo tracks, relying more on Monica's sensual voice than a scorching pace to draw in the listener. While "Reason" and the aforementioned "Breakdown" pick up the tempo a bit, the band more often ventures in the opposite direction with a fair number of powered ballads. "Everyday" is a song that wouldn't be at all out of place on alt-rock radio, while "Almost Over" is a duet that builds up to a groovy climax. The album contains two bonus songs that are slightly different versions of the same ballad, which really doesn't add a lot to the disc as a whole.

Pavlov's Dog is a solid, if somewhat safe, debut from a very determined band. I think they'd benefit greatly from occasionally ratcheting up the tempo and the guitar presence, but their style nevertheless has wide appeal and should satisfy fans of female-fronted alternative metal.

Track Listing
3Lose Control
8Almost Over

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