Having dipped into the major-label life without any damage, though apparently not impressing the paymasters at MCA to follow-up Waikiki, Fluf returned to indie life without a worry and landed square on its feet with Road Rage. Miles Gillett finally bowed out of playing with the group to be replaced by Francis Winfield, who does a fine job, while Higgins keeps holding down the bass. O himself, unsurprisingly, is resolutely unchanged and has no reason to; the warm, rough, fiery singer and guitar player he always was and always will be, from the sound of it. Mark Trombino takes care of production once again, and his smart touches are everywhere -- the sudden reduction down to a fierce feedback snarl on "Not That Kind," the sudden reverb on O's voice for the start of "Wake Up," and the full-bodied, invigorating sound throughout. An easy sign as to how O adapts to modern times without changing is right up front with the great "I'm It on the Net," an at-once celebratory, ironic, and heartfelt -- and he really does pull it off! -- celebration of end-of-the-century computer chat culture. As a call to arms Hüsker Dü could be proud of if the Net had been has omnipresent in 1984, say; it's perfect, and a great way to show that Fluf are back and then some. O's straightforward yet wry around lyrics doesn't let him down any from there, with such subjects as "Leo and George" (Fender, whose guitars O loudly praises while noting "Thurston and Lee" would agree) and "Hang Out" (a celebration of O's weight without a hint of self-loathing or worry) showing he still has the touch. Add in wonderful, passionate anthems about life and its struggles -- "If I Could Feel Good" is another monster in the Dü vein -- and Fluf still rule OK. ~ Ned Raggett, Rovi

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