MX-80 Sound

Crowd Control

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    8
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MX-80 continued their winning streak with Crowd Control, an album which found the quartet simplifying some of the arrangements without losing the sense of crackling intensity and playful-while-being-serious performing of earlier efforts. Stim at points sounds a bit more wistfully lost in the mix, though he's still an intriguingly off-the-beaten-path vocalist, reciting and pronouncing as much as singing and exchanging truths and eternal verities for odd, sly observations. The wry take on a wannabe Hollywood (and other things) tastemaker via "City of Fools" is Stim at his prime, somehow sounding sleazy without changing his general approach. His sax playing is still a good part of what's happening; the brawling title track, about the closest this era of the band ever got to straight-up good time rock & roll, relies just as much on his horn blowing as the other instrumentalists. Similarly, the other three members again demonstrate the perfectly in-tune playing and inventiveness that earned them their reputation. Anderson has an ear for both clipped, focused riffs and thrilling solos that go quickly enough to never wear out their welcome, as in "Night Rider" and "Pharoah's Sneakers." More than once, he sounds like he's found a way to connect with the post-punk world (check out the watery guitar additions on "Why Are We Here") without seeming to chase any particular early-'80s trend. Perhaps the most surprising turn is a newfound sense of entrancing and even uplifting songs -- there's about no other way to describe the downright beautiful "Obsessive Devotion," with its calmer pace and really beautiful feedback, Stim's vocals conveying both unsureness and acceptance of the titular state of mind. Then there's the kissing cousin of "Sweet Jane," "More Than Good," its descending chords in the chorus just sweetly sad enough, and the concluding, minimal rock noir (down the lonely sax) of "Promise of Love."

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