Led by 38-year-old singer Jack Rugan, Saul Glennon (the group is named after a Batman comic) promises to be Cleveland's answer to Guided by Voices. Over the course of the last decade, Rugan has written several hundred songs, only a fraction of which have actually made it onto the band's discs. With last year's Music for Three Piece Quartet, the group, which also includes drummer Jerry Rugan, guitarist Adam Zieleniewski, and bassist Mark Meluch, had a breakthrough. That album, named one of the best of the year in local album polls, showcased the band's sharp songwriting skills, even if the production values were minimal. British Garage Invasion, its fifth album, is just as good as Music for Three Piece Quartet.
Whether writing about a spin through the old neighborhood ("Dan Y's Van") or romancing a potential love interest ("This Time, Let's Fly"), Rugan inflects his songs with an optimism that provides a pleasant distraction from the upheaval currently shaping our lives. The sharp hooks in "Paul Johnston, 95," "Five Minute Window," and "The Deal You Got," a duet with Dakota Floyd's Sorca McGrath, have just as much raw energy as the music of the Byrds, the Who, and the Creation, Saul Glennon's obvious antecedents. At times, the limits of Rugan's voice are exposed. He sounds whiny and shrill on "I Saw Lisa Tonight," and his voice is stretched too thin on the title track. Still, British Garage Invasion comes in at the top of the heap of local releases for the year. As a sad footnote, group mascot Gordon D., the lovable golden retriever after whom its label is named, passed away shortly before the album's release.