Human Highway

Moody Motorcycle

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This is an eerily spaced-out body of acoustic-based music, by turns languid, lyrical, rootsy, and bracing, often in unexpected places. The actual singing is resplendent in Everly Brothers-style harmonies, all transposed to a post-psychedelic setting that Don and Phil never embraced. Nick Thorburn and Jim Guthrie mix their voices in eerily lyrical fashion backed by low-wattage (or no-wattage) instrumentation, doing songs which seem to speak to variant states-of-mind and consciousness -- think of the Everlys treading into the spacier Graham Nash/David Crosby territory circa 1970, but with a peculiar pop edge. The album opener "The Sound" recalls the tone of the Traveling Wilburys' "Handle with Care" in its good-natured, gentle introductory vibe. They claim a strong debt to R&B and doo wop but that's a little hard to hear for the first third of the CD -- what is plainer throughout is that someone has finally delivered a follow-up to the Beach Boys' Friends album, dwelling on moments and sensibilities that slip past most of us in the normal course of a day. And in the course of plunging into those moments, Guthrie and Thorburn become funny as often as they are profound -- "What World" could almost pass for a slice-of-life vignette song by Lisa Kudrow's Phoebe Buffay on Friends. "Sleep Talking" finally gets us to a doo wop-laced sound that's totally beguiling in this acoustic setting -- it leads us into the relatively high-wattage title track, a rootsy rocker with a beat, a high haunt-count and a great break. And then, for the second half, it's back to what CSN&Y used to call "wooden music," on "My Beach," "Ode to Abner," "Pretty Hair," etc. The folkiest piece here is "Duties of a Lighthouse Keeper," the music of which sounds like something that should have been written by the late Stan Rogers. It all ends with "I Wish I Knew," on a serious note about communication and perceptions, which sums up the entire record.

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