Dar's Place

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Based on the evidence of their 1998 album Dar's Place, the Chicago-based retro-rockers Switchback are musicians of impressive technical proficiency with insufficient vocal and songwriting talents to compliment their instrumental acumen. There is plenty of creativity at play in the arrangements and compositions, as the band leaps from influence to influence like a pinball ricocheting through rock history. It's all there: psychedelia, folk rock, '70s jam-band flair, '50s rock & roll, country, Beatlesque melodic weirdness, even light Celtic accents. It's hard not to admire the band's ability to blend a wide variety of styles into a reasonably palatable whole. But the dual lead vocalists Brian FitzGerald and Marty McCormick do not possess the vocal abilities to pull it all off. They rely too much on quirky They Might Be Giants deliveries and they have a tendency to half-shout through their faster songs, obscuring much of the melody. At their best they are capable of harmonies that recall the Everly Brothers, but on Dar's Place they attempt harmony only very rarely. Their songwriting skills are likewise inconsistent. Though they sometimes exhibit wit and instrumental sophistication, they generally produce songs that are mired in hookless meandering. Switchback is at their best when they stop singing and let the talented FitzGerald go nuts on the mandolin or electric guitar.

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