The Muslims
The Muslims
(1928 Recordings)

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From Portishead to the Mountain Goats, any number of artists have taken to including MP3 download codes inside the vinyl versions of their albums. But the self-titled debut by lo-fi San Diego rockers the Muslims offers a tongue-in-cheek tweak on that concept: the seven-song 12-inch features as its bonus a CD that contains the vinyl recording plus three more songs. In other words, the Muslims have hidden their debut album inside their debut EP. Of course, the CD can also be purchased by itself, but when the joke's this good, why bother?

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Besides, the Muslims' music is best heard on vinyl anyway. Like a few other buzzy, newer rock combos, the band play muffled garage-rock with their hooks way up front. The melancholy "Beside Myself" is tom-tom-heavy and feather-light, its guitar lead both bright and worn—the kind of song you might expect a college-radio DJ to spin twice in a row, just because. I'll go ahead and say it: The band the Muslims remind me of the most is the Strokes. They have a similarly tight, jittery approach to well-written songs; vocalist Matt Lamkin has the same underlying moan even when he gets excitable (see "Future Rock") that Julian Casablancas has—though these Californians are more prone to playing with Velvet Underground–style noisiness, as on "Religion."

The Muslims doesn't find the band at the level Is This It found the Strokes, and it's easy to easy to hear why the last three songs didn't quite make it onto vinyl: "Nightlife" rides a rubbery, ingratiating bass riff and occasional fuzzy keyboard clusters on its way to an exuberant "Whoa-oa!" refrain, but it's hard not to wish they'd written a few more lyrics for it. Nevertheless, there's always room for one more Velvet Underground descendant when it's done this well. recommended