Tan Sleeve

Bad From Both Sides

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Lane Steinberg and Steve Barry (formerly Steve Katz) were formerly two-thirds of the Florida-based pop trio the Wind, whose three mid-'80s albums are highly prized by power pop obscurantists. Their second release under their revived partnership, 2004's Bad From Both Sides is one of the finest albums either singer/songwriter has been involved with. Steinberg and Barry's mix of winsome jangle pop melodies and odd, often funny lyrics on unexpected topics will be familiar to anyone who's heard Fountains of Wayne, but the difference between the two bands is that Tan Sleeve are much less afraid to balance a goofy trifle like "Puffy's Gun" (about the notorious club shooting that sent P. Diddy's protégé Shyne to jail) with a pair of songs like the heartbroken, country-tinged "It Doesn't Snow in New York Anymore" (which has a chorus oddly similar to the Carpenters' "Top of the World") or "Equidistant," songs unafraid to examine actual emotions without a clever quip. The wide-eyed "Maria Bartiromo" (a much better song than the late Joey Ramone's ode to the legendarily babealicous cable-news financial reporter) and the woozily neo-psychedelic title track, which includes a sly quote from the Hollies' "Stop Stop Stop," are particularly nice, but the album's unexpected highlight is a completely sincere and gorgeous reading of Henry Mancini's theme from Breakfast at Tiffany's (No, not "Moon River," the other song), complete with wordless harmonies, strings, vibes and a very Brian Wilson-like banjo part. It's so gorgeous that an entire album of Steinberg and Barry originals in the same style sounds like an enticing prospect; the closing "The Meaning of Success," with its softly crooned vocals, brushed drums and similarly lush arrangement, sounds like a teaser for this fantasy project. Varied, engaging and beautifully crafted, Bad From Both Sides is a triumph.

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