Slim Dunlap

Times Like This

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This album is the opposite of the Replacements' rowdy, unscripted alt-rock vitriol. As the band's ever-agreeable guitar presence, Dunlap won the fans' respect for the good-humored grace by which he succeeded his predecessor, the late, revered Bob Stinson. Dunlap stays true to his humorous, low-key form: "Cozy" is a jangling make-out invitation to "a place where we can go and get down low," while "Not Yet" slyly sends up rock & roll procrastinators and the forlorn hopefuls of "Nowheres Near" lament their band's inability to outgrow its basement beginnings. Of course, no Dunlap record would feel complete without some well-placed pokes at music-biz foibles. (This is the guy who wrote "Ballad of the Opening Band," whose inspiration came from the Replacements' ill-fated stint supporting Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.) This time, he obliges with the self-evident "Radio Hook Word Hit" and "Cooler Then," which gently chides the former "teenage terror" who hasn't "scared anyone in a very long time." The mood turns serious elsewhere. The disaffected dreamer of "Hate This Town"'s breezy country talk-twang admits that the place where he grew up wasn't so bad, while the title track's folksy strumming reminds listeners that "our fortune is in what we still got." Like the man himself, this album wins on its own unobtrusive terms.

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