Poppy indie-rock that seems to be pulled up directly from a halcyon period of alternative rock, Ninja Gun should be placed in the Pantheon along with Matthew Sweet and Concrete Blonde. The mastering on “Smooth Transitions” is well, smooth and completely open in terms of allowing the band to do what they want without sounding as if this disc was recorded in a barn. Mixing in an adequate amount of alt-country during the early stages of the CD (The Smoking Gun), Ninja Gun sound as a less-emo version of Lucero, maintaining the same high quality of arrangement and musical talent that the aforementioned Lucero enjoy. The only thing holding back “Smoking Gun” from being a more solid sound is the purely unimginatifve country-esque guitar riff that permeates the track. Following up “Smoking Gun” with the Green Day and Replacements-like “Maybe You Should Explode” shows the limits that Ninja Gun have to work with; the two songs sound so dissimiliar that pretty much anything could be on “Smooth Transitions” and Ninja Gun will find some day to make it their own.
In their ode to Poison, “Purification Ritual” recalls the spirit of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” down to the purely acoustic guitar line leading the track and the slightly-nazal set of vocals that lie over the track. Bringing back the earliest days of Screeching Weasel with “Dead FM”, Nina Gun is the consummate actor; equally comfortable in any mask, any clothing, and most importantly, any role. This is not a group of teens trying to please everyone with the lowest common denominator, rather these individuals are deliberatively using everything but the kitchen sink to make something completely new. For me, “Smooth Transitions” is fueled by the same amalgam of popular culture and off-the-wall antics that something like Family Guy was known for.
Each song is as perfect of a pop gem as were the first Ramones track, Oasis, and Nirvana tracks. Ninja Gun may not be in the common vocabulary as of yer, but just you wait – another few albums that continually maintain the same caliber of quality as “Smooth Transitions” will sell itself to the larger masses of humanity. Out of “hundreds of object passing through (their) periphery (to paraphrase Bright Eyes)”, Ninja Gun have created their own style of their music, something that can truly be called “better than its constituent parts.”
Top Tracks: Jessie, Purification Ritual
Ninja Gun – Smooth Transitions / 2004 Barracuda Sound / 12 Tracks / http://www.ninjagun.com / http://www.barracudasound.com / Reviewed 24 January 2005