Following the success of their Springsteen-esque Juno Award-winning debut album, Jackson Square, Ontario five-piece Arkells continue to pilfer the sounds of the '80s blue-collar rock scene with their sophomore effort, Michigan Left. The Boss' influence is still very much evident throughout its ten tracks, from the "Dancing in the Dark"-ish synths of "On Paper" to the rousing heartland anthem of "Bloodlines." But second time round, the Canadians have delved much further into their vintage record collection for inspiration. Inspired by the university where the band formed, the groove-laden "Where U Goin" echoes the feel-good blue-eyed soul of Hall & Oates; "One Foot Out the Door" blends the atmospheric MOR of Mike + the Mechanics with the chiming widescreen rock of U2; while on the energetic "Whistleblower," frontman Max Kerman channels the impassioned vocal tones of Michael Hutchence against a backdrop of rumbling basslines, echo-laden guitars, and call-and-response chants. As authentic as these retro offerings are, it's only when they ditch their Now That's What I Call the '80s handbook, as on the angular indie pop of opener "Book Club" and the slow-building proggy finale, "Agent Zero" (bizarrely dedicated to NBA star Gilbert Arenas), that they avoid becoming just another generic and over-earnest guitar band. With its several skyscraper choruses and super-sized hooks, Michigan Left will no doubt continue Arkells' ascension into the upper echelons of the Canadian rock scene, but there's little here likely to inspire the next generation of stadium rock stars.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien