The 77s

Drowning with Land in Sight

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The iconoclastic 77's were signed to conservative gospel behemoth Myrrh in the aftermath of grunge, in an attempt by the label to capitalize on the fervor for alternative rock. By picking up The 77's, the label had the double advantage of gaining a band with a humbling amount of credibility and a proven track record as high-caliber songwriters. This could have been The 77's' big break, a chance to win over a wider audience and shake loose their "cult" status. Pity, then, that the record would mark the beginning of the band's creative downturn. A murky, muddy mess, Drowning With Land in Sight transforms The 77's from rock re-toolers to by-the-book bar band. A bleak, often agonizing account of Roe's divorce, Drowning is submerged in dank, sludgy blues riffs and warmed-over grunge. Though the band strives to evoke a mood of desolation, the end result is the exact antithesis: a big, bloated dinosaur rock record that stomps and smothers with volume and blunt force. The band plods through a note-perfect cover of Led Zeppelin's "Nobody's Fault But Mine," the prog histrionics of "Indian Winter," and the churning riffs of "Snake" with little gusto or inspiration. As always, it is during the melody-grounded songs that the band truly sparkles. Both "The Jig Is Up" and "Film at Eleven" resonate with urgency and despair, as does the straight-speaking gospel number "For Crying Out Loud" (a song the band was forced by Myrrh to include in order to lighten the record's tone). A controversial lyric in the song "Dave's Blues" delayed the record's release until the offending line could be successfully backmasked, but Drowning's eventual arrival initiated the band's first national tour which, despite the record's lukewarm reception, was an unqualified success.

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