Punk rock history is littered with dismal attempts at creative growth, from the Angelic Upstarts' New Wave misstep to Seven Seconds' spiritual awakening. But on 13 Ft. & Rising, the California desert rats in Throw Rag make a satisfying step forward that's unlikely to irk their biggest fans. And anyway, Throw Rag started out with shit-kicking, Southern rock-influenced bar punk, and from there it's not such a leap to the CBGB glam of "She Don't Want To (She Don't Care)" or the Dead Kennedys' sound-alike "Rotten Me" -- just a few steps toward a wider view. The band's more typical whiskey-burning rave-ups are enhanced by the layer of gravel that exquisitely obnoxious singer Captain Sean-Doe has acquired from cigarettes and touring -- and with his occasional quaver, he does a much better Axl than Scott Weiland. Goofy touches -- the occasional boinging mouth harp, the use of Motörhead's jet-fuel-gargling Lemmy Kilmister on background vocals -- fill out a ripping album that restores one's faith in the ability of a punk band to change outfits without looking ridiculous.
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