Not Just Noise arrives with a strong, if ominous, presence on the album-opening "I Hate You So Much." The bass and guitar pluck out countermelodies on the low strings, while the drums play loose, circular patterns before a metallic smack of distortion begins the song. It's a formula that Not Just Noise employs several times on its self-titled debut, relying on the spookiness of spindly guitar figures and the air-tight pop of the snare drum to create a heavy atmosphere. But this heaviness begins to drag over the album's nine tracks, and the formula sinks too many promising songs. "The Light of Day" begins with an energizing kick, but as soon as it gets started, the tempo slows down and the same broad guitar chords choke the enthusiasm out of the song.
Singer Heather Gracey is something of a chameleon on these songs, moving from a Belinda Carlisle-esque coo to a throat-scraping growl. Her range is impressive and her phrasing nimble, but too often it sounds as if she is floating above the music rather than meshing with it. (This may be a problem of production, or it could be a result of trying to have an alto voice with such a bottom-heavy band.) "Bomb So Sticky" splits the difference, with Gracey singing in a throatier register while Timothy Brown's percussive guitar chords offer a simple, sturdy framework for her to traipse across. Not Just Noise has its moments of clarity, and if the band would begin to mix things up just a little (a tempo change and a different distortion pedal, for starters), it could move beyond manufactured gloom and blasé riffs. Christian Schaeffer
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