The Steps

The Steps (Kurofune)

Texas Platters

The Steps

(Kurofune)

Relatively unknown in the States, Austin's Steps have found moderate success in the Land of the Rising Sun. The teenagers' eponymous debut, impeccably produced by Frenchie Smith, lands locally courtesy of Kurofune Records in Japan, where the band has been in rotation on a local version of MTV. Standout "Dagger," a murder mystery with sharp hooks and sharper riffs, finds Will Thompson's stuttering sneer and angular guitar slicing across Stephen Ross' throbbing bassline. "Cold Floors" stumbles on the Kinks circa 1965 by way of Jet, and "Outlaw" cuts closer to the Strokes than Albert Hammond Jr.'s solo material. Yet, while the Steps may look and sound the part, there's unfortunately nothing bubbling beneath the surface, no underlying sense of danger or desperation driving the music, which renders the second side practically unbearable, particularly botched pub sing-along "Way Down the Line." The kids are all right, but they could bear some hardship.

**

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