By John Hult
Judas Priest Angel of Retribution (Sony)
It is said that a band has its whole life to draw inspiration for its debut album, but only a few hectic years to record the often-disappointing sophomore one. Judas Priest offer a second-generation debut here, courtesy of a 15-year hiatus. The Birmingham, England, metal icons knock the dust off their leathers and slip into their comfort zone with relative ease on Angel of Retribution, offering up a fully satisfying album rock experience. This is classic and improbably classy. Calculated modern production subdues the sharp edges and highlights the band's thoughtful metal mathematics, a trait usually hidden behind its sideshow demeanor.
Action Action Don't Cut Your Fabric to This Year's Fashion (Victory Records)
For a band awkwardly lumped in with Interpol for marketing purposes, Action Action sure can muster a wicked impersonation of the Cars. "Photograph," like much of this debut from the new band of former Reunion Show front man Mark Thomas Kluepfel, tucks a disturbing, personal story into a can of deceptively simple pop. Deceptive sure, but still very much retro pop. "Let's Never Go To Sleep," for example, is like a U2 track from the days when "Bono" and "World Bank" didn't appear in the same newspaper, let alone the same story.
The Out Crowd And Then I Saw the Holy City (Kora Records)
Last weekend, public television ran a seemingly never-ending parade of live sets from aging rock stars for its seemingly never-ending pledge drive. Sadly, many of the well-fed performers couldn't marshal the youthful exuberance to give their generation-defining songs the kick they deserve. This debut full-length from the Out Crowd has the opposite effect. Former Brian Jonestown Massacre songwriter Matt Hollywood and his cadre of rock kids make well-chosen sonic references to four decades of songwriting to give The Holy City a spot-on rock mood. The feeling is there 100 percent. The songs just aren't as good.
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Erika Wennerstrom • singer-