The self-titled LP from Japan's Louder would be a lot better if it could decide what it wanted to be. Half the cuts are big sugar-metal jams, like album opener "Idiot Mind." Hearing them, one can only assume that the band's name is both homage to and one-upmanship on the early '80s Japanese band Loudness. Those kinds of songs are catchy, they're fast, they're fun -- and, ultimately, transient. Louder's standard rock 'n' roll is good, but it's not particularly noteworthy enough to stand above any of the other bands which have come before them. Stacked up against Guitar Wolf, Electric Eel Shock, or even Gito Gito Hustler, they just can't compete. However, when you listen to something like "Prank" or "Dog Off," with strange, skronky guitar lines and snottier vocal delivery, Louder becomes way more interesting, and something worth checking out. For the most part, you get one or the other: either standard pop-metal or weirdness. The pop-metal overrides the strange by a 3:1 ratio, but for one, brief, shining moment in the middle of the LP, Louder manages to combine angular guitar weirdness and pop to create "Secret Fiction," which is the highlight of this collection of songs. From its build in the middle that leads to the slashing riffs which acommpany the gang vocals ... it's fucking great. As to what it is that leads to these songs being either or, for the most part: given that this is a power trio, with guitar, bass, and drums, I think that given the limitations, there's not a lot of room to do both at the same time. If they added a second guitarist, I feel like Louder could not only beef up their sound, but more fully explore every aspect of what they do without having to choose between them. That said: I enjoyed it. The packaging is stellar, as per usual from Sorry State. The reverse printing on the jacket, along with the printed inner sleeve, make this a seriously cool-looking release. The versions are hand-numbered, with 500 copies on black, and 100 on clear vinyl. It's available now from the Sorry State store.