The Blam

Caveat Emptor

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Just over a year after they released their self-titled debut album, the Blam returned with Caveat Emptor, an album so different from its predecessor that it could make listeners wonder which sound truly is the Blam's. Gone, for the most part, is the peppy, slightly punky power pop of The Blam; in its place is a dreamy, often breezy sound that often suggests a more energetic version of Luna's style. Singer Jerry Adler's soft, slightly detached vocals sound a bit like Dean Wareham or the Church's Steve Kilbey, and the album's often spare, jangly arrangements strengthen comparisons to those bands. When Caveat Emptor does rock out, it does so in a way that's either fuzzier ("Death or Glory") or darker and more angular ("Writing on the Wall") than the way the Blam used to turn up the volume, but these songs do provide a balance to the more atmospheric feel of the rest of the album. Sometimes things get a little too atmospheric: songs like "Everybody" and "How Did the Flies Get In?" are certainly pretty, but they're so soft and gentle that they seem in constant danger of evaporating. However, the most immediate of the quieter songs, such as the title track, "Calm Down," and the lovely "It's Not Personal," show that the Blam can do shimmering pop with more style than bands like Longwave and less melodrama than bands like Elefant. "Elliott," a largely acoustic song, also works well, hinting that the band could also pull off a folk-pop direction. Releasing two albums within such a short time may have diluted the quality of the band's output somewhat, but Caveat Emptor has strengths that The Blam didn't have, and vice versa. The Blam have done good things, and different things, on their first two albums; here's to hoping that the band can focus all of its strengths on its next release.

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