Part rock and roll apparatus, part image and attitude, Detroit's Suicide Machines know the value of well-timed placement in the mainstream. Not that these ratty 21st-century punks have chart domination in mind. With a decade already logged, the Suicide Machines have absolutely no chance of making the cover of Rolling Stone this -- or any other -- year. But the compromises made on their fourth album, Steal This Record, portend bigger aspirations than second stage on the Warped Tour. Think of the foursome as Wink-182, a grown-up version of pop-punk for folks who prefer their musicians clothed. Several of the songs accelerate, picking up speed about a third of the way through, as if the guys momentarily forgot the punk part of the pop-punk quotient. They even turn in a near-straight take on R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)," tackling the song without an ounce of irreverence.
There's admiration here for modern rock's past and the history of rock's engine. The Suicide Machines are about revolutions and solutions and such -- but don't mistake these bouts of sermonizing with Rancid-like rhetoric. Steal This Record is more about the pop at the center of their 15 songs. Very few of the tracks stretch to the three-minute mark, and singer Jason Navarro's sneer is always accompanied by a smile. And with punched-up production, affably generic melodies, and an opening tune -- "Killing Blow" -- that's designed for a burly initial impact, this album is about as close to its commercial objective as Suicide Machines will ever come. That is, unless an 'N Sync collaboration is due next.