Let the first half of this decade be remembered as a time when rock's ability to manufacture nostalgia broke down. The trouble is everywhere these days: on hip-hop albums, where rap artists sample samples to close the gap between last week and 1965, and on That '70's Show
, where cast members dress as if they're ready for a Weezer concert --and the real Ted Nugent plays himself as a young Motor City Mad Man, some 20 years after the fact. You can even hear a strain of this confusion in the otherwise simple and direct rock of a band like L.A.'s Nebula, which borrows the Nuge's guitar thunder and makes it modern, simply by taking seriously the one joke that every former 10th-grade burnout knows, but keeps to himself: that if rock really means to make up for the pimply-faced inadequacies in us all, it had better be hard and loud. Formed by two original members of Fu Manchu, Nebula is part of an entire school of bands that follow the textbook left behind by lesser guitar gods of the '70s, guys like Mountain's Leslie West and Motorhead's Fast Eddie Clark. But, instead of pounding out self-consciously cartoonish sludge (think Nashville Pussy), the trio pounds out, well, sludge. Or maybe an update of Mudhoney's Superfuzz Bigmuff
. The band is better live, of course, than on record. In fact, with the release of Charged,
the gap between the two is as wide as it's ever been. But this fall-off aside, it's still amazing how well Nebula can use a stage to reanimate rock's most hyper-masculine fantasies, conjuring up a world of muscle cars and tube tops, with solid riffs -- and not a single reference to nookie.