The 77s

EP

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AllMusic Review by

Functioning as a stopgap while the band hunted for a new label, the self-released EP signals a refocusing of the band's energies after a string of lackluster releases. In fact, the album-opening "The Years Go Down" is one of the band's best compositions since Sticks and Stones, with Roe contemplating his luckless abandonment by fans and friends. The music is suitably subdued, propelled by Bruce Spencer's rat-a-tat percussion and Roes ominous, restrained guitar texturing. Though the band retains this controlled tone for most of the record, they don't match the melodic sensibility of the opening track. The largely acoustic "Sevens" boasts some cunning wordplay and a haunting chorus, but "Unbalanced" is another woeful blues number in the tradition of "Outskirts" from Tom Tom Blues, and the rambunctious "Blue Sky" is cliched '80s radio rock at its most uninspired. Though Roe's voice on that song manages an uncanny similarity to Trent Reznor's, the verses bear an eerie melodic resemblance to Kenny Loggins' "Footloose." Much more successful is the tender, delicate "The Best I Have," which closes the brief record. The best thing about EP is the way the slower numbers embrace minor-key changes, covering them with a gray-cloud sadness that is deeply stirring. But where artists like Bob Dylan and PJ Harvey have found a way to present the blues in a context that is fresh and inspiring, Roe seems unable to interpret them outside of their most hackneyed form -- a variety mostly explored by middle-aged bar bands. Rather than distilling the mournfulness that is at the center of the genre, Roe seems hell-bent on reissuing the same tired bar chords, miming the pose without the spirit. The band needs an outside influence that will kick them out of the comfort zone they have been languishing in since Pray Naked, but with each new release their willingness to experiment seems increasingly limited.

Track Listing

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blue highlight denotes track pick