With only their fifth album in over ten years, the Saw Doctors have established a solid core of followers worldwide despite never being backed by a major label. However, Villains? does enjoy a distribution agreement with Ryko which should deliver this product to an even wider potential audience. Reduced to a threesome, the Saw Doctors have undergone subtle and infrequent changes in their sound -- subtle because the changes don't dramatically alter the sound of the band and infrequent because they aren't detectable on a majority of the cuts. For instance, the thoroughly modern rock opening title track utilizes distorted vocals and a keyboard-and-guitar-heavy Wall of Sound treatment eliciting a Lou Reed-like vibe. The following two tracks, "This Is Me" and "Still Afraid of the Dark," are patented Saw Doctors pop/rock pieces displaying both their boisterous and vulnerable sides, respectively. "Happy Days" is a breezy and uncharacteristic number featuring the lead vocals of bassist Pearse Doherty and a bouncy Herb Alpert-like trumpet line courtesy of Danni Healy. Lead vocalist Davey Carton follows with an energetic and brass-laden "Bound to the Peace" which (at the mid-point of this album) might cause longtime fans to wonder if this is no longer a folk-rock band. In truth the Saw Doctors have always been a pop group, but their affinity for folk, punk, and R&B has always been undeniable. They've been frequently labeled (and perhaps improperly) as a Celtic rock band, so the absence of noticeable folk elements on Villains? is significant. Regardless, this band has always produced delightful pop music with no specific affiliation to any genre of music. With the increased role of their mini-brass section, the lack of accordion and mandolin, along with the judicious sharing of lead vocals between Carton, Doherty, and guitarist Leo Moran, perhaps the Saw Doctors are indeed a changed band.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Sleger