Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Float Away With the Friday Night Gods

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 had changed. Now, with help from former Oasis producer Owen Morris, he's emulating Liam Gallagher, and having lowered his sights he comes within a tonsil's breadth of hitting the target. If this doesn't seem like much to boast about, Marah have 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 fifty 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 immigrated to the U.K. last year, Dave Bielanko 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 have been enough. Maybe next time Bielanko should try Maxwell impressions.

Rolling Stone, July 4, 2002