Maybe this will convince you that you're finally into your Springsteen years.
James Young 2008-01-14
Marah are heirs apparent to Bruce Springsteen, or so Nick Hornby and Steven King would have it. That, at least, is what we are continuously told in article upon article about them. This will mean nothing to you if, like many, The Boss is one of those artists you've swerved lest you grow to like him. But maybe this will convince you that you're finally into your Springsteen years.
Marah stick solidly to the rules to deliver, as Hornby puts it, "straight ahead rock", but within that niche they are sonically adventurous. Not in an Arcade Fire or Killers way. It is too joyous, and there is little knowing posturing or bombast. But there is a bit of the 'kitchen sink' approach to the production. Harmonicas wail in from a distance, bells jingle out back, horns blast, and an accordion joins the fray. But this overloaded feel quickly wears off and the layering just gives it depth.
They're seven albums into their career and you can tell. There's rust and fire in lead singer David Bielanko's voice and the diversity of a band confident in their exploration of rock's many aspects. There's something redolent of Ziggy Stardust in the urgency of the excellent Old Time Tickin' Away; Angels On A Passing Train has chorus that is pure Elvis Costello; and if you liked Electricity by Spiritualised but thought Jason Pierce a bit miserable then Wild West Love Song is for you. On Jesus In The Temple Bielanko pulls off an accurate impression of Devendra Banhart, but don't let that put you off. The lovely Songbirdz shows a lighter touch and could have been penned by Edie Brickell or Eels.
There are a few bum notes: Despite its noble sentiment the title track is a bit too Travelling Wilburys and Blue But Cool is hackneyed. The best, however, is saved until last. Wilderness is a stomper that The Stones themselves might have produced in their heyday, and has you wondering if that really is a bag pipe wheezing away in the background right up to the point when they all Ceilidh out the back door. It's as if post-modernism or punk never happened. But I guess that’s the spirit of Bruce to a t.