The 77s

A Golden Field of Radioactive Crows

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Fans of the 77s have come to expect gigantic gaps between the band's releases. But the six years that separated A Golden Field of Radioactive Crows from Tom Tom Blues was, to that point, the longest such delay for the band. Though the gap owed largely to the collapse of Brainstorm Artists International and the lack of a suitable label for the band's efforts, the band used the time to regroup and refocus after the disastrous Tom Tom Blues. When it was finally released, A Golden Field of Radioactive Crows was promised to be a return to the jubilant, anthemic pop of The 77s. And, for the most part, it is -- though it lacks that record's breadth and vitality. Michael Roe had been steeping himself in the moody pop of the La's and Red House Painters, and their influence shows in the gorgeous "One More Time" and the dreamy, delirious "Rise." The songs have an airiness absent from all of the band's work since Pray Naked, and several of them seem to flutter upward like the crows of the title. But what was most refreshing was the fact that Roe seemed finally to have quieted all of his bar rock impulses. The record's up-tempo numbers, like "Leaving" and "Down From You," owe more to the Ramones than Jimmy Page, and even when the band does give in to the blues ("Mean Green Season"), it is tempered and Dylanesque. For all this improvement, however, the record does have its shortcomings. The band still can't seem to summon a memorable chorus, and this deficiency severely undermines the development of the record's more promising songs. While A Golden Field of Radioactive Crows provides a convincing argument that the 77s still have a great album in them, sadly, it is not this album. However, this is a reaffirmation of purpose and direction, and a promising sign of things to come.

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