When originally released in 1999, the Sahara Hotnights' debut C'mon Let's Pretend made mainstream stars of the all-female band in their native Sweden. It's easy to see why. This is the kind of album that grabs you on the first listen and doesn't let go until you drive yourself crazy from playing it over and over again.
While their sophomore effort Jennie Bomb delivered melodic punk a la the Ramones or the Runaways, C'mon relies upon 1960s pop friendliness. This is not to say that the album is not punkish or heavy in its guitar sound or that lead vocalist Maria Andersson doesn't employ almost hysterical shouting to make the music pretty damn intense. It's just that the melodies on this album suggest '60s influences like the Doors, Del Shannon and Big Brother and the Holding Company (in fact, Andersson sounds like a cross between Janis Joplin and Siouxsie Sioux) more than any punk band.
Except for possibly the overly chaotic "Impressed By Me," every song feels like a hit and makes you either jump or bliss out into a dreamworld of positive aggression (if not both). C'mon Let's Pretend is something like a superalbum of simple hard rock. All of this is despite the fact that some of the songs are atypical for the Hotnights' typical style. During its verses, "Wake Up" plays like a traditional soul song. "That's What They Do" is unusually subdued for the band, sounding almost like a samba with Andersson actually singing without screaming for once. "Kicks" is built on an extremely powerful bent note neo-blues riff of the sort that Soundgarden virtually perfected. And just to show that the Hotnights aren't too retro, "I Know Exactly What to Do" uses a modern but slow bare-bones progressive dance beat.
Otherwise, though, the album mostly just unobstructedly revels in the joys of standard garage rock, rediscovering its primitive power just as the band did with Jennie Bomb. To be sure, you can't expect too much sophistication or spirituality from a group of teenage girls singing about relationship problems over inherently uninnovative music. The questionable phrasing even make the lyrics kind of hard to understand. The guitar playing is also a bit more thrummy and less precise here than on the second album. But, what the hell -- this rocks.