J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

Playlists, podcasts and music from WQFS Greensboro's J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Now Departing:
Marah - Can't Take It With You

Can't Take It With You
(Yep Roc ; 2007)

Marah is one of those bands you hear a lot about, but don't always hear. That's how they were for me until I finally ventured into the stacks at WQFS, pulled out 2000's Kids in Philly and gave it a spin. Now that album has lodged itself firmly in my mental rolodex of 'best records of the noughties.' But I've been only off-and-on impressed with their subsequent albums. 2005's If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry was a fantastic consolodation of the roots-rock the Philadelphia band had sailed through so effortlessly in 2000 and the bigger, hooky rock-and-roll they had steered more towards on the two albums between Kids in Philly and If You Didn't Laugh.. With a looming 6th LP (not counting their Christmas or live albums) getting pushed back from September to January of the new year, Marah has released a stop-gap, digital-only EP of outtakes from the sessions that yielded their forthcoming album.

The EP is bookended by what would be familiar to people who've heard Marah's Christmas album: cheeky, almost irreverent cover of an old standard. In this case, it's "Shine On Harvest Moon." A truncated version opens the EP and then rolls into the first of four new songs, "Angels on a Passing Train." What continues as a typical Marah-esque rocker, complete with infectious chorus, takes some Waitsian detours in the bridge and at the end - with odd radio static and accordion lines providing the closing moments a carnival feel. Then the song "If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry" comes on, certainly calling to question where this song has been hiding since 2005. I assume it was originally written for their 2005 album and just not used, but it's a winning, simmering jazz-tinged exploration of the common, maudlin lyrical themes that the band tends to exploit on its slower numbers.

The other two new originals explore the revved-up, 50s rock influences ("Hard Up!") and more of the jazz inflected shuffles that seem more like genre exercises than anything else (the title track). The album then winds back down with a full run through the "Shine O Harvest Moon" that opened the record. What significance the song holds to the EP, other than just working as a lead in/lead out, is unclear to me. It's a fair enough song, but its quirky charm doesn't hang around and I find myself skipping past the intro and turning off the record after the last original fades.

If this is, indeed, a harbinger of things to come with their new LP, it's not a bad thing. If these are the castoffs, they are pretty decent ones - especially "Angels.." and "Hard Up!" The band certainly isn't trying to convert any new fans - and one wonders if that's even a serious objective in their career at this point - and this EP, as stated, is mostly a sop to their long-time listeners. To those ends, it succeeds admirably and certainly has my ears pricked for the new album.

Rating: I(nteresting)

(Rating scale: A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y)

Judge For Yourself:

Marah - "Angels on a Passing Train"

Download this album from EMusic.

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