When consumed as background music, No Doctors' Origin & Tectonics passes for neo-grunge blues rock. Guitarist Elvis DeMorrow grooves like a Midwest punk harboring a secret love for ZZ Top and Free, Mr. Brians pummels his drum kit with boogie belligerence, and Chauncey Chaumpers' baritone wail contains genetic chunks of the Lizard King, Glenn Danzig, and Ian Astbury in its double helix. Move beyond casual listening, however, and the band's fifth album reveals a refined weirdness. This has been the Bay Area quartet's modus operandi since coming together as teenagers in Minnesota nearly a decade ago. Like Royal Trux, their chief inspiration, No Doctors can pass for straightforward rockers and avant-freaks. "AAO," for example, would be garden-variety doom if not for the group's spiky minimalist interplay, sax-man Cansafis Foote's low-end skronk, and the jagged changes. "Yardin," a back-porch jam made muscular with proggy classicism, follows a similarly twisted path. But none of these eccentricities ever gets in your face. This is true even when the band cranks a hypnotic, stripped-down howler like "Tuning th' Sundial," which really isn't that far removed from the Screaming Trees or Soundgarden, except it's just kind of . . . off.
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