30 Odd Foot of Grunts

Bastard Life or Clarity

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TOFOG may be one of those bands who's destined to be just a conversation piece. Aside from the fact that everyone outside of Australia is baffled by their name, their lead singer and main songwriter is one of Hollywood's biggest stars. By nature people will link Russell Crowe with the likes Kevin Bacon and Jeff Bridges, who have launched second careers in rock & roll (both to a predominantly unreceptive audience). But this is much more than a side project for Crowe. TOFOG began making music together in the early '80s, well before Crowe was an international superstar. Bastard Life or Clarity is their fifth album. It is well-thought-out, well-produced, and proof that they intend to be taken seriously. That being said, it is not an album that takes many chances. It's straightforward, guitar-driven, mid-tempo rock with a touch of country that sounds a lot like watered-down Bon Jovi or the semi-successful comeback album of any number of '80s bands. "Things Have Got to Change" is a promising start, but turns out to be one of the disc's most distinctive tracks. Crowe's voice is strong enough that one can almost forget that he's a movie star. That is, of course, until he blows his cover with a tough-guy monologue in the middle of the second track. His lyrics are neither offensive or memorable, but the arrangements and musicianship provide some surprisingly moving moments. Though used sparingly, Stewart Kirwan's lone trumpet is particularly affecting, adding another layer and a uniqueness to an album that is otherwise little more than something to talk about.

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