The Young Fresh Fellows

Electric Bird Digest

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The decline in the Young Fresh Fellows' wackiness factor (and the growth of their relatively serious side) that began on This One's for the Ladies following the departure of Chuck Carroll continued on Electric Bird Digest. Musically, the band sounded harder and more aggressive than ever before, with Kurt Bloch and Scott McCaughey's guitars sounding much better integrated than on their previous go-round, though the pop sensibilities of primary songwriter McCaughey were still very much in evidence. And while there are glimmers of the band's trademark sense of humor (most obviously on the goofy snippet "The Teen Thing" and in titles like "Tomorrow's Gone (And So Are You)" and "Swiftly But Gently"), for the most part Electric Bird Digest is witty rather than laugh-out-loud funny, and there's a thin but audible undercurrent of angst running through much of the album (especially on Kurt Bloch's songs, which suggest the Fastbacks without their undertow of gleeful sloppiness) -- not particularly surprising from a band still trying to struggle by on a cult reputation after close to a decade on the boards. But as a rock band, the Young Fresh Fellows rarely sounded tighter or more emphatic than they do here, and, as on This One's for the Ladies, the best songs on Electric Bird Digest prove that the band could get serious and still have plenty to say, both musically and lyrically. And the production by Butch Vig gives the band's sound a muscle it rarely had in the past, without losing their melodic sense along the way. It's not one of the Fellows most fun albums, but, from a musical standpoint, it captures them at the top of their game.

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