Thrush Hermit

Clayton Park

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Clayton Park is more 1976 than 1999, but it's not Thrush Hermit's fault they were born in the decade they honor here. The album is a vast improvement from the somewhat thick and muddled Sweet Homewrecker -- their dynamic concert performances are perfectly captured on Park, and the slight restraint in their vocals shifts the energy and attention to the music -- a smart move -- which results in a solid, experimental and genuinely captivating record. The heavy, plodding tone that drenched Sweet Homewrecker has been all but replaced with album-rock guitar riffs, catchy midtempos and echoing vocals on tracks like Joel Plaskett's "From the Back of the Film" and his stadium-rock anthem "The Day We Hit the Coast." Rob Benvie's "Headin' South is sneering, pouty punk-pop reminiscent of Television, but he isn't afraid to make a melodic rock anthem like "Western Dreamz" either. Ian McGettigan's "(Oh Man!) What to Do?" is how the Stones should have sounded in the late '90s, and Plaskett's "Oh My Soul!" -- one of Hermit's greatest songs -- is a laid-back, summery Southern rock tribute that would make the Allman Brothers and Lynynrd Skynyrd proud. Clayton Park is Thrush Hermit's best work to date -- and it perfects their hard rock sound while expanding it as well.

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