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Marah: Float Away With The Friday Night Gods



Album: Float Away With The Friday Night Gods
Label: Artemis/E-Squared

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Fans of Marah's rootsy 2000 release Kids In Philly should probably jump straight to the song "Crying On An Airplane" on the band's overwhelming, often confounding Float Away With The Friday Night Gods. The track (about the small details of a heartbreaking departure) sounds most like the "old" Marah, in that the clatter of instrumentation stays muted, and out of the way of the lyric and tune. The other nine offerings on Float Away have the core of Marah songs—sing-along choruses, emotionally charged lyrical vignettes, and David Bielanko's scruffy-but-swinging vocals. But the production of Britpop architect Owen Morris (Ash, Oasis, The Verve) makes those nine so big and busy that the disc sounds like some weird cover project: Aerosmith Plays Marah. Float Away's pushy swagger creates the feeling of a crowded city corner, full of people looking for weekend action. There's nothing inherently wrong with this approach: Marah's special quality doesn't come from its use of banjos or its Springsteen/Stones/Van Morrison fetishism, but from its ability to focus those influences and tell vivid stories in a rush of sweaty energy, connecting the old and the new, the rural and the urban, the rich and the poor. And that rush is still there. The clap-happy "Soul" and "Revolution" are more invigorating in their call-to-party lyrics and multiple hooks than most of the torpid stuff that passes for rock, and no production lacquer can disguise that. Of course, bigger isn't always better. Marah tapped idol Bruce Springsteen to sing backup and play guitar on the album-opening "Float Away," but his efforts are almost impossible to distinguish; it's a fine enough arena-rock anthem, but it might be more potent if played in the old Marah style. Nevertheless, the band's journey into the land of cockiness and star fantasies doesn't deserve the critical beatdown it's bound to receive from zealots, who won't want to hang with the glam-dance sheen of "Shame" or the pummeling album-closer "Out In Style" (both cases where Morris' production is a clear asset). But those willing to duck the flash and savor Bielanko lines like "I've been crying on an airplane / filled with questions / drinking small wines" will know that the kids in Philly are still alright.