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Small favors

“Burn the Masters,” the second track from Rye Coalition’s latest album, Curses, opens with this rowdy bunch of dudes howling, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!” It’s a shameless rip of the White Stripes’ bratty melody from “Fell in Love With a Girl,” and considering Jack and Meg’s ubiquity, there’s no doubt that Rye Coalition is aware of the plagiarism. But do you think the band cares? Hell no.

Since 1994, this New Jersey hard-rock group has made a career of paying homage to its heroes: AC/DC, the MC5, Thin Lizzy, and Led Zep. In fact, homage might be too generous a word. Copyright infringement is more like it. On the Dave Grohl-produced Curses, the song remains the same, even though Rye Coalition updates its list of influences to include -go figure — Foo Fighters and the aforementioned Stripes.

Rye Coalition
(Gern Blandsten)

This time around, beer-gutted frontman Ralph Cuseglio perfects his third-rate Paul-Stanley-meets-Wayne-Kramer howl. Like a bar-band singer or a middle-aged dude checking out mics at Guitar Center, Cuseglio frequently lets his self-consciousness get the best of him. But on “Vietnam Veterinarian,” he forgoes pitch entirely, opting to tear the shit out of his lungs by screaming over a group of cheerleaders chanting “We’ve got spirit/Yes we do.”

Thanks to Grohl’s tutelage — as witnessed on the accompanying in-the-studio DVD — Jon Gonnelli and Herb Wiley’s big, bad riffs stay faithful to ’70s arena rock with flourishes such as twin-guitar leads, and the Foo-man’s production know-how reveals an almost sickening obsession with studio sheen. But even with the period-perfect touches, Rye Coalition’s stealing gets old fast. We should be thankful for small favors: At least the band’s not obsessed with Styx.

- Kevin O’Donnell

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