Sabbath & Garfunkel?

1001 (Atlantic)
Dead Hot Workshop

By Mark Clark

Imagine, if you can, what the Gin Blossoms would sound like if they had balls.

Voila. You have just imagined Tempe, Arizona's latest product, Dead Hot Workshop. The group's big-label debut, 1001 is an enthralling blend of crunch and twang.

If you knew that Tempe is also the hometown of the Gin Blossoms, as well as alterna-pop survivors the Meat Puppets, congratulations. You advance to the bonus round.

Like those bands, the fellas in Dead Hot Workshop have a penchant for writing ear-catching, folk-tinged melodies. But, unlike those groups, the Workshop meshes those melodies with Crazy Horse-style metallic dissonance. This is a band that jokingly (but accurately) describes itself as "Sabbath and Garfunkel."

Dead Hot Workshop is far from the first band to combine pop melodies with tortured guitar noises, but seldom has the trick been executed as masterfully as on 1001, which is loaded wall-to-wall with dynamite tracks. '

"A," the album's opening cut, is archetypal alterna-pop, with a catchy vocal hook and a distortion-soaked guitar solo laid over an insistent power riff. The band's southwestern influences show up next, on "Lead Thoughts," which chugs along with a folky beat vaguely recalling "The Orange Blossom Special" and a guitar attack in the tradition of "Hot Rails to Hell."

The group shows it can handle ballads as well as rockers with cuts like the broken-hearted "Burger Christ." Yes, as that title reveals, this band has a bit of lyrical attitude, too. Need further evidence? Consider the record also includes tunes named "F— No," "Mr. S.O.B.," and "Jesus Revisited."

1001 stumbles only when the band loses sight of its own formula, offering straight metal or straight folk. "Choad," for instance, is 100 percent metal but only about 50 percent interesting. The band's appeal is its play of those contrasting elements against one another in varying combinations: Two parts crunch, one part twang for one track, two parts folk, a twist of metal on the next.

It's a tasty recipe.