Big City Sin and Small Town Redemption

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From the sound of Roy's full-length debut, you'd never know that the bandmembers' roots lie in the most pummeling of hardcore. It's true, Brian Cook and David Verellen are best known for the Northwestern cult-favorite group Botch, and Ben Verellen is from the equally heavy (and suitably named) Harkonen. But, as unlikely as it seems, Big City Sin and Small Town Redemption is a beautiful twist on alternative country. Like the stunningly good Winnipeg outfit the Weakerthans, Roy combines pop punk hooks with a country flair -- and the influences that they explored on their first two EPs have been absorbed into a sound that is now uniquely Roy. Yet the positive impact of Modest Mouse (the intro to "Wipe That Brow"), Dinosaur Jr ("Don't Overdub My Heart") and Wilco (most everything on their records) linger on. The album is eclectic in tone, but Roy does it all well, from the stripped country number "Better Head North," to the hooky and strikingly anthemic "Rebel Hymn." Big City Sin and Small Town Redemption might seem unassuming at first, but once it sinks in, the record proves to be one of the first essential albums of 2004, and Roy comes off as Pavement playing country-rock without the smug bastard act -- a pretty attractive prospect.

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