Stuck in Wonderamaland

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Continuing its regret-tinged look at the life of the almost-famous in L.A., Dramarama on its third album continued polishing its abilities at both straight-ahead rock and gentler affairs on Stuck in Wonderamaland. Beginning and, in a brief acoustic reprise, concluding with the title track, a wistful strum with some prime feedback burn added in the midsection, the band happily turned firmly away from the bad-glam-addled idiocies of late-'80s Sunset Strip sleaze to keep pursuing its own muse. The sly choice of a cover song, Mott the Hoople's bitter, knowing demolition of the rock dream "I Wish I Was Your Mother," betrays the emotional sucker punch prevalent throughout. With no changes outside of the departure of keyboardist Ellenis, adequately replaced here and there by Tommy T, also tackling guitar as needed, the group still kicks with a sharp energy even at its calmest moments. Easdale's signature semi-rasp if anything became even more emotive with time, while the guitar team of Wood and Mr. E Boy remained able to tackle full-on riffing to softer shades with aplomb. Carter's bass work here is some of his best, warm and flowing, while drummer Jesse similarly does the business. The great "Last Cigarette" continues the Dramarama tradition of strong lead singles, hitting and ripping with the prime energy of early New York glam/punk and even earlier rave-ups without sounding dated in the least. Then there's "70s TV," which makes the addiction to such a seeming pit of hell downright cool. When the group tries for calmer material, it does so in ways that make the then-prevalent "power ballad" trend look like the weak cheese it was. "Fireplace, Pool and Air Conditioning" hits a lovely slow burn that sounds like an updated Love if Tom Waits was the lyricist, while "Try" simply shimmers with a gorgeous acoustic/electric combination, a lovely eternal sunset.

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