Timbuk 3

Eden Alley

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Critics bowed at the feet of Beck when, in the mid-'90s, he was able to successfully fuse elements of such disparate genres as funk, folk, and retro-rock. Few remembered that several years earlier, husband-and-wife duo Timbuk 3 had brought a similar (if more homespun) eclecticism to alternative rock with their programmed drums, willfully clunky rhythms, and lyrics clever enough to rival those of the best singer/songwriters. Eden Alley, the follow-up to 1986's Greetings From Timbuk 3, didn't result in a Top 40 hit the way its predecessor had -- there's nothing as outright funny here as "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades" -- but it contained the same brand of irony-fueled lyrics and smart songcraft as the band's debut. "Easy" and "Dance Fever" were thinly veiled morality tales set to sweet pop melodies. "Eden Alley," "A Sinful Life," and "Little People Make Big Mistakes" remain the best examples of Pat and Barbara K. MacDonald's amiably gentle vocal harmonies; the title track, with its country-ish melody contrasted by a flamboyantly synthetic beat, is particularly striking, while guest Ponty Bone lends accordion to the pop-reggae tune "A Sinful Life." On the funkier tracks, however, the rigid groove of the drum machine proves too limiting, leaving songs like "Reckless Driver" and "Tarzan Was a Bluesman" locked in the '80s.

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