Collecting the initial singles and EPs that helped establish the band's worthy reputation, Man Gravy finds the three-piece kicking up a sometimes-sludgy-but-never-dragging blast of thick, entertaining punk/pop/metal power. Those wondering why San Diego, in particular, seemed poised to become "the next Seattle" circa 1993 could do worse than give this an ear. While hardly grunge rip-offs -- a hilarious standout is the scenester put-down "Kim Thayil's Paw," with O pondering "getting a job at Guitar Center" and adding hoarse screaming over straight-outta-Soundgarden heavy-duty feedback crunch -- Fluf from the start knew how to rock without quotes. Taking the endpoint of Olivelawn as grounds for further great work, O and Donhowe continue to feed a righteous fire while Gillett adds his own brand of drum mania and skill for extra measure. O, in particular, makes a near-perfect frontman, thanks to his rough, warm, and winning voice, able to deliver drama -- check out the rampaging "Time Over," the band's debut single -- as well as thoughtful regret and smart humor. His guitar work ranges from huge, slow riffing to quick, tight work reminiscent of Bob Mould's emotional, gripping power -- opening track "Degrader" could almost be a cutoff of Zen Arcade, it's that good and anthemic all at once. A out-of-nowhere ringer that turned out to be stellar and a half was a brief cover of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song," transforming the passionate acoustic performance of the original into a roaring, inspiring call to arms. Extra credit goes to O, the regular designer of the band's releases, for the sly humor all over the artwork, from the description of the band's sound as "f*ckophonic" to the numerous jabs at the worthlessness of overpriced CDs (and CDs in general). ~ Ned Raggett, Rovi

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