Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Heffa/Victor/Warner Bros.

Sad-sack Irish songman takes two steps forward, one step back

The tortured melancholy bit--part of it, anyway--takes a back seat on the follow-up to this Irish bard's well-loved 2003 debut. Not that Rice is cracking any jokes, except for the one about sitting on a chimney. But after pulling out three of the love laments whose loveliness lifted him from the singer-songwriter morass last time, he does let himself get actively angry and sweetly lyrical on four tracks that culminate in a galvanizing imitation of Polly Jean Harvey's galvanizing imitation of testosterone-fueled desperation.

Then comes the accurately titled "Grey Room," and the weepies get him. You're an eloquent fellow, Damien. There's sinew and backbone in your voice. So just tuck your heart back under your lapel and the acutely titled "Accidental Babies" might actually win her back--properly framed, that "Do you brush your teeth before you kiss?" could be a pretty affecting line. In fact, it almost is anyway.

Rolling Stone, Nov. 30, 2006