Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Marah

  • Kids in Philly [Artemis, 2000] B-
  • Float Away With the Friday Night Gods [Artemis/E-Squared, 2002]
  • 20,000 Streets Under the Sky [Yep Roc, 2004] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Kids in Philly [Artemis, 2000]
Though the press kit just barely mentions Springsteen, anyone intrigued by their reviews should be aware that these young adults from Philly flatter Bruce sincerely enough to make a grown man wince. Just as banjos and mandolins overshadow synths and samples along their E Street revisited, so old-fashioned urban-sentimentalist local color like "Reet Petite," Rocky Balboa, and watches that need winding warm their hearts, while indications that they still keep their eyes open--modern stuff like hazmats, Members Only menswear, ghettos "teeming with beats that reverberate fear"--chill their very souls. They deserve a Big Man of their own. B-

Float Away With the Friday Night Gods [Artemis/E-Squared, 2002]
Anyone put off their feed by Dave Bielanko's running Springsteen impression on Marah's 2000 roots-garage critics' album Kids in Philly will be relieved to learn that, although Bruce himself cameos on the follow-up, Bielanko's voice has changed. Now, with help from former Oasis producer Owen Morris, he's emulating Liam Gallagher, and having lowered his sights comes within a tonsil's breadth of hitting the target. If this doesn't seem like much to boast about, Marah has also developed a knack for the dynamite chorus. From "Float Away" with its boss guitar break to "Out in Style" with its intimations of existential failure, track after track starts with or launches into a zooming tunelet recognizable at 50 paces. And how the music does zoom--as with Oasis, Morris broadens Serge Bielanko's guitar till it fuzzes over like a Hammond B-3, and when the band emigrated to England last year, Dave left his banjo behind. But missing from this candid and even intelligent attempt to take a local band pop is--what else?--any vestige of the local. Avowedly "personal" lyrics are shamefully short on wit, detail, psychological insight--or sex, which might be enough. Maybe next time Bielanko should try Maxwell impressions. [Rolling Stone: 3]

20,000 Streets Under the Sky [Yep Roc, 2004] Dud

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