Float Away With the Friday Night Gods

E-Squared / Artemis

Ok, for those of you pressed for time, who want the quick summary review:


For those who are interested in why there is an aura of whoredom lingering in the plastic soul of this record, read on. For those saddened by the loss of yet another vital American rock band to the vague currents of “Britney Spearsness,” keep going. For anyone interested in how a band can completely hide all their assets and sound nothing like themselves, follow along.

Marah has previously released two fine records — 1998’s Let’s Cut the Crap and Hook Up Later Tonight and 2000’s Kids In Philly. Both are rockin’ little bits of Americana, with eclectic instrumentation and highlighted by the amazingly soulful vocals of David Bielanko, who was within spitting distance of being the States’ version of Van Morrison. Note emphasis on the word “was.” For this new release, he’s either not singing, or has had extensive vocal lessons in order to capture that elusive sound of radio friendliness — whatever that might be.

Did I mention this record gnaws on the strong legbones of everything respectable about rock and roll?

Yeah, I did.

The band, it seems, had begun to feel hemmed in by their classification as a “roots rock band” and yearned to reach out and explore new musical outlets. At least that’s what they say in interviews and such. A cynical observer could remark on the fact that critical praise means exactly NADA at the grocery store, and these guys want to sell records. Label owner Steve Earle thinks so, and mentions a disappointment at the band’s new sound. Well, he stands to earn money along with the band if this “experiment” works out and sells gobs of product.

Which, thankfully, it ain’t gonna do. The brothers Bielanko’s decision to move temporarily overseas and work with Oasis producer Owen Morris was a calculated risk, and in the final accounting, it wasn’t money well spent. The songs are generic, boring and burdened by TOO MUCH CRAP… much like Oasis records. Previously, Marah’s music was poetic. Here, it’s pedestrian. Looped handclaps, drum machines, treated vocals, fake string sections, all reek of a band wanting to get played on Clear Channel. But ha ha, Oasis and its ilk aren’t played on American rock radio (other than the rare spin of Coldplay, perhaps) so the boys have their noses up the wrong dogs butt this time. Bands changing their sound is a vital, necessary part of rock. Who would have wanted the Stones to remain Chuck Berry rehashers, and not advance to the level of Exile on Main Street or have John Lydon stay mired in Sex Pistol land, never giving us the ugly beauty of Public Image Limited? No, a band only stays interesting when it grows. In a natural fashion, over time. Not in a seeming frenzy to embrace “the hot new sound” by parasitic trainspotting.

Bottom line? Would this have worked if the guys had written Brit-Pop on the level of T. Rex and The Verve? Well, of course it would have. Maybe a small bit of adjustment would have been required by listeners, but we’d have come along at some point. But this crop of songs just don’t have the backbone to make the journey worth it. Transient, minor songs about nothing.

This record sucks. How does it feel to sell out, and have no one buying?


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