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If you were to play 1992's Deserters alongside the Oyster Band's 1995 release The Shouting Side of Life, you'd notice quite a contrast. While Shouting is a rocking, hot-blooded outing that often brings to mind the exuberance of the Pogues, Deserters is much more subtle and restrained but equally substantial. Both sides of the Oyster Band (which shouldn't be confused with the heavy metal/hard-rock act Blue Oyster Cult) are equally appealing, and while introspective gems like "Elena's Shoes," "Diamond for a Dime," and "All That Way for This" might lack the immediacy of songs from The Shouting End of Life, they're no less impressive. Elements of both British folk and Irish/Celtic music enrich this pop-rock CD, which reminds us just how distinctive and recognizable the Oyster Band is. Whether you find yourself comparing an Oyster song to material by the Pogues or U2, the bottom line is that the Oyster Band is a great outfit in their own right.

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