Loose Fur

Born Again in the USA

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Though it's in keeping with the jammy, appealingly tossed-off feel of their debut, Loose Fur's second album, Born Again in the USA, isn't quite as, well, loose as Loose Fur was. Actually, in its own mellow, affable way, it manages to be pretty accomplished while keeping the freewheeling, creative spark that made Jeff Tweedy, Glenn Kotche, and Jim O'Rourke's collaboration fun the first time around. A mix of rambling instrumentals and songs that border on the poppy side of these artists' work, Born Again in the USA has a laid-back, late-'60s/early-'70s feel to it, particularly on the two Tweedy-sung songs that open the album. "Hey Chicken" boasts Southern-fried guitars and a lot of cowbell, while "The Ruling Class" gets its whistled hook from "Winchester Cathedral," its ambling groove from Stealers Wheel's "Stuck in the Middle with You," and its barbed lyrics and easygoing veneer from pop curmudgeons like Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman. Later on, "Apostolic"'s move from brittle acoustic strumming to electric power chords feels like a highbrow take on classic rock. O'Rourke's songs, meanwhile, run the gamut from the bittersweetly subversive soft rock ballad "Answers to Your Questions" to "Stupid as the Sun," a bright, sharp rocker in the mold of Insignificance, to "Thou Shalt Wilt," a sardonic, satirical take on the Ten Commandments that sounds like it could appear on a version of Schoolhouse Rocks for adults. Though a few moments on Born Again in the USA feel a little off-kilter and don't work entirely ("Pretty Sparks," the wandering, eight-and-a-half-minutes-long "Wreckroom"), these tracks make sure that Loose Fur isn't too neatly groomed. It's more of a proper album than Loose Fur itself was, but having fun making music together still sounds like the main priority on Born Again, which, once again, also makes it a lot of fun for Wilco and O'Rourke fans.

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