Madder Rose

Bring It Down

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A wonderful debut and an album that holds up well over time, Bring It Down remains the most familiar work by Madder Rose -- a pity given all the fine music the group has since produced, but certainly well worth all the attention it received. Some of the attention given to the group may well have resulted from the hype over female rockers in the early '90s, but Mary Lorson is nobody's stereotype and nobody's fool. With a strong, warm voice -- not as forceful as Kathleen Hanna's, not as commanding as PJ Harvey's, but easily able to capture and set a mood -- she's endlessly listenable, her lyrics often wryly romantic and intelligent without sounding forced. "20 Foot Red" is one of her best songs, a sharp rocker with just enough strut and punch to really connect, while her take-charge performances on "Lay Down Low" and the hip-hop-tinged "Sugarsweet" are mighty fine. In some ways, though, Billy Coté takes a key role throughout; besides his fine lead guitar work -- check out the crumbling, melancholic shades on the tearjerking "While Away" or the fractured, halfway to Neil Young squall on "Lights Go Down" -- he wrote the lion's share of the songs. His and the album's highlight is the magnificent "Swim," more or less the band's theme song, Lorson's voice at once yearning and considering, with a magnificent slide guitar part from Matt Verta-Ray, simple but perfectly effective, providing the core hook. At points elsewhere, Verta-Ray contributes some remarkably dark bass work -- on the slow-burn title track, it almost sounds like Simon Gallup stopped by on a break from the Cure -- while at many points drummer Johnny Kick shows he has an ear for polite breakbeats and rumbling energy that suit the mood as much as more straightforward rock rhythms.

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