On their last album, 2002's Jennie Bomb, Sahara Hotnights were a badass girl gang, switchblade sisters whose game plan was summed up by "Alright, Alright (Here's My Fist Where's the Fight?)" and its two minutes of sweaty swagger. Basically, they were everything the Donnas were supposed to be that same year. There was no comparison: Sahara Hotnights made the Donnas sound like the Pink Ladies to their Crips.
This time around, the Swedish quartet has split the difference, trading muscle for flexibility, like a bodybuilder who is suddenly hitting the yoga mat five nights a week. Which means: bubblegum harmonies and bubbling keyboards, guitars that slap and stroke in equal measure, lyrics that are less about itching for a fight than about "Stupid Tricks" that lead to an "Empty Heart." Keep-It-Simple-Stupid gems like "Stay/Stay Way" and "Hangin'" seem to point to the band's growing future as an elastic, Elastica-like smart-pop band, with more early Wire references (a bit watered-down, but still there) and less barbed-wire bravado. Don't get us wrong: Sahara Hotnights are still badass. They're just finding more interesting ways to play that part.