The moods on SLM's debut album range from exuberant and visceral to meditative and haunting, but it's all rock 'n' roll, and it should establish this somewhat mysterious quartet (long one of New York's best-kept secrets) among today's most intriguing independent artists. SLM write songs about the complexities of love, the madness of politics, the burdens of memory, and the strange characters they've known, including a few they can only imagine and a few they occasionally see in the mirror. These are songs for everybody who responds to great rock 'n' roll with both the body and the mind. With studio expertise provided by producer Nick Miller and engineer Godfrey Diamond (veteran of projects with the Stones, Lou Reed, et al.), plus a few strategic contributions from jazz keyboard whiz Dave Cook and mandolinist Bill Bell, SLM have laid down eleven tracks that are drawing comparisons to work by some of the legends of the classic and modern rock eras. Bryan Brown and Adam Russell mount a contrapuntal guitar attack reminiscent of Television, the Velvet Underground, Richard Thompson, and the Stones, while the rhythm section of Mark Hennessy and Bill Millard drives the songs with flexibility and power, whether the arrangements call for rootsy realism or punked-up aggression. Songwriters/singers Bryan and Bill can also both turn phrases that turn heads. Some of the songs are topical, all are personal, one is biblical, and not one is disposable. Like the rugged old flag in the cover photo, hanging tough in grim circumstances, SLM's material reflects a survivor's sensibility, an energy that stays bright through a world of trouble. In an era when commerce too often calls for poses, autotuners, and gimmicks passing for ideas, SLM have the gall to make a record that respects it's listeners, stands up as a complete album, and rises to the heights of true original rock 'n' roll. -- Col. Blavdak Vinomori, Hai Shang Hua (Muckblooms) Records.