The first time I heard Billy Raygun, I have to admit I wasn't impressed. Their side of the split with Lipstick Homicide left me fairly cold. This self-titled LP from John Wilkes Booth Records has completely changed my mind, however. The gruffness that bothered me upon first impression has been tempered. Either the band is less dischordantly wasted, or I've just been listening to enough hardcore for this to seem melodious by comparison. That being said, Billy Raygun is the heir apparent to the low fidelity wastrels of Shang-A-Lang. Though it's not even been a year since that band released their farewell EP, the calamitous pop that trio brought to so many singles is sorely missed. Thus, Billy Raygun's development from sloppy pop quartet to tenuous garage punk rockers is a welcome change. One need look no further than "Tituba," the instrumental which splits the album in half. Its tight, eye-opening guitar work demonstrates that this New Hampshire act isn't stumbling upon their hooks. Nothing this well-done could possibly be a happy accident. The vocals are off-kilter and off-key, but the way the shouting and hooting and hollering at times comes together harmoniously will turn even the most dour expression into one of joy. Buy it on CD from the John Wilkes Booth store or wait for it to drop on vinyl from People of the Hills.