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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
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No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
Bobby Bare Jr.'s Young Criminals Starvation League
The Longest Meow

Rating: 9.5/10 ?

September 18, 2006
The debate for me, almost from the outset, was whether I should hand down a rating of 9 or 10, as The Longest Meow certainly qualifies as a milestone in the Country Rock movement. Bobby Bare Jr. has achieved what Lucero and The Drive-By Truckers have been trying so hard to accomplish for years, creating an irony-free homage to the heroes of 1970's AM country radio that actually builds upon their achievements rather than simply rehashing their sounds. Other bands have relied on shtick like boozy personas and concept records which suffer for being so overdone. If Bobby Bare Jr. is a drunk he doesn't brag about it on this record and the only "concept" you'll find is that it took eleven musicians eleven hours to record the disc.

For me this album is the logical successor to the groundwork laid by Uncle Tupelo in the early 90's. Bare does not achieve this feat alone - he has enlisted members of My Morning Jacket to keep things from stagnating musically. There are also guest spots from members of Trail of Dead, Lambchop and Clem Snide. Those honored on this album include Springsteen, Graham Parsons, Emmy Lou Harris, Roy Orbison and Neil Young. The songs range from meaningless but entertaining jams to deadly serious meditations about our complex American lives. There is even Bobby with an acoustic guitar covering The Pixies' classic "Where is My Mind."

After a brief intro, Bare decides to burn the barn. "The Heart Bionic" has a pumping bass-line that emulates the human heart. The track grooves along with high flying distorted guitars and Bare wailing on about his "electric blood".

Things come back down to Earth pretty quickly on the next track, "Gun Show," which is a mostly acoustic tribute to The River era Bruce Springsteen. This is a ballad of loss featuring a hauntingly funereal organ which adds a somber gravity to lines like: "Why did my daddy have to die?/ and does he hear us when we cry?"

"Back to Blue" is a sweet song of barstool loneliness that could easily have been recorded by Graham Parsons with Emmy Lou Harris harmonizing over the sliding pedal steel.

"Sticky Chemical" and "Uh Wah Oh" are circus-like songs featuring glass bottle percussion and three-penny organ setting up the whimsical mood of the songs. Bobby Bare Jr. does not take himself too seriously which seems to be the key to making such a progressive Country Rock album.

"Demon Valley" nods to Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly while lip smacks and a sliding pedal steel propel this apocalyptic dance tune onward. Cheek to cheek, Bobby dances us into Hell and we thank him for it.

"Mayonnaise Brain" and "Snuggling World Championships" are songs that Ryan Adams would be able to record if he could take a joke. "Mayonnaise Brain" is an acoustic love song featuring a chorus of laughter, while "Snuggling" is an up tempo rock affair propelled onward by My Morning Jacket drummer Patrick Hallahan's rhythmic barrage. As the track closes Hallahan flies around his drum kit like a madman, reminding listeners that this isn't just a Country record.

"Borrow Your Cape" is the album's most overtly political song. While the band channels Crazy Horse, Bare pleads: "Can I borrow you cape?/ Your leader is falling down." Bare also reminds listeners to: "Brace your face for a modern age/ where the scoundrels rape the fools/ At the moment when all common sense becomes unfashionable." The song's soaring guitars and carpet-bombing drums are supported by soulful organs during Bare's verses. This is the most fully realized track on the disc and could easily get radio play.

The album concludes with Bare pleasantly covering "Where is My Mind" in a solo acoustic set and with the break-up lullaby "Stop Crying." The Pixies cover is good but not worthy of comment. "Stop Crying" is a sweet love song that works simultaneously as a comforting good night to his listeners and as an apology to his lover.

I have the sinking feeling this disc will go completely unnoticed. One thing that is certain though is if this amazing record is what Bobby Bare Jr. can create in eleven hours we will definitely be hearing from him again. I'd suggest not waiting though - go buy, borrow or steal a copy of this disc, it is more than worth the effort.

Reviewed by Jon Burke
A contributing writer and a Chicago resident who will not be goaded by LASís editor into revealing any more details about his potentially sordid affairs.

See other reviews by Jon Burke



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