Superdrag’s 1995 alterna-pop hit "Sucked Out" was oddly prophetic. "Look at me, I can write a melody/But I can’t expect a soul to care," vocalist John Davis intoned, summing up in one self-depreciating verse the harsh reality that awaited this eagerly rocking pop band from Tennessee. After lasting four years in major-label purgatory while their next album sat on a shelf at Elektra, they were dropped in ’99. And 2000’s In the Valley of Dying Stars (Arena Rock Recording Co.) was a lifeless disappointment. When Davis asked "Who sucked out the feeling?" in the hooky chorus of "Sucked Out," he was at least posing the right question.
Potent emotions have, I’m happy to report, returned to the quartet’s power pop on Last Call for Vitriol. Taking its cues from classic ’70s FM rock radio and fuzzy indie pop, the disc bristles with bright melodies and keen lyrics. "Baby Goes to Eleven," with a cameo by Guided by Voices frontman Bob Pollard, exemplifies Vitriol’s vigor, with its booming backbeat, razor-sharp guitar riffs, tongue-twisting rhymes, and a guilty pleasure of a solo that conjures memories of the "My Sharona" Knack. The equally infectious "Feeling like I Do" runs over the five-minute mark without seeming long. And when Superdrag take some of the power out of their pop for the loping, country-inflected "Safe & Warm" and the acoustic campfire sing-along "Her Melancholy Tune," they prove they’ve got more than one kind of hook up their collective sleeve.
(Superdrag open for Guided by Voices this Wednesday, July 17, at the Paradise. Call 617-562-8800.)