A.V. Club Most Read

News Newswire Great Job, Internet!
TV Club All Reviews What's On Tonight
Video All Video A.V. Undercover A.V. Cocktail Club Film Club
Reviews All Reviews Film TV Music Books
Features All Features Newswire
Sections Film Tv Music Food Comedy Books Games Aux
Our Company About Us Contact Advertise Privacy Policy Careers RSS
Onion Inc. Sites The Onion The A.V. Club ClickHole Onion Studios

Marah: Life Is A Problem



Album: Life Is A Problem
Label: Valley Farm Songs

Community Grade

  • A
  • A-
  • B+
  • B
  • B-
  • C+
  • C
  • C-
  • D+
  • D
  • D-
  • F

Your Grade


Life Is A Problem is a problem. The 10th full-length by Philadelphia’s Marah kicks off with some sampled barnyard noises before easing into “Valley Farm Song,” a song as bucolic as the band’s prior work is bombastic. The vibe is laid-back to the point of listlessness, but it may be meant as therapeutic: Marah’s 2008 album, the rowdy Angels Of Destruction!, ended with the 10-minute opus “Wilderness,” the sound of a band coming apart at the seams. And that’s exactly what Marah did after the release of Angels: Most of its members quit, including longtime co-songwriter Serge Bielanko, brother of leader Dave. That schism bleeds all over Life’s scattered, disjointed Americana. In spite of a couple of almost-rockers—including the tellingly titled “Together Not Together,” which only rouses itself from gorgeous melancholia long enough to indulge in some delicious atonality—the album is a sketchy, spacey mess stitched together with whispers and fishing line. Like Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Big Star’s Third, Life is a damaged piece of work. It doesn’t harness its damage as well as those influences do, but there’s a quiet bravery and a breathtaking vulnerability to Bielanko’s newfound experimentalism. And in that sense, the album is a problem that solves itself.