Gin Blossoms

Major Lodge Victory

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The Gin Blossoms quietly faded away after their second album Congratulations...I'm Sorry, which went into the Top Ten upon its release in 1996 largely on the strength of the record's lead single "Follow You Down," which also reached the Top Ten. Successful though they may have been, the group was still reeling from the loss of founder/guitarist/songwriter Doug Hopkins, who departed the band shortly after the 1993 release of their major-label debut, New Miserable Experience, and then committed suicide not long after that. Any band would have a hard time dealing with that, but add the sudden massive success of the debut to the mix, and it's not surprising that the group weren't able to keep going past their second record: there was too much stress to process. Nevertheless, their disbandment seemed like an abrupt ending for a group that seemed destined to be journeymen, turning out solid records every two to three years as they steadily toured the U.S. And that's why their 2006 reunion album Major Lodge Victory feels natural: they're picking up where they left off and continuing on as if nothing has changed. Major Lodge Victory sounds as if it could have appeared in 1997 as the successor to Congratulations; it has the same friendly, relaxed feel as the Gin Blossoms' hits, equal parts power pop, post-REM jangle pop, and mainstream polish. It also suffers from the same problems as Congratulations, particularly in how it's more pleasant than memorable, as the songs all ease into the next without any great change in attitude, feel, or even tempo. A few songs do manage to stand out -- Jesse Valenzuela's "Learning the Hard Way" is a good approximation of the vibe of "Follow You Down"; "Heart Shaped Locket" and "Long Time Gone" (both co-written with the Rembrandts' Danny Wilde) are bright, lively, and jangly worthy heirs to "Found Out About You" and help give this album a center, since they sound like adult alternative hits from the late '90s, offering a reminder of why the Gin Blossoms were radio staples during that time. Anybody who has longed to return to that sound, or longed to hear a new Gin Blossoms record, will find this one satisfying.

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