The Last

Gin & Innuendoes

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AllMusic Review by

The first LP in seven years by this underappreciated L.A. quintet resembles Confession (1988) and Awakening (1989). It's still not as good as their exceptional L.A. Explosion (1979), the unreleased Look Again (1980) -- hey SST! Issue this! -- and French import Painting Smiles on a Dead Man (1983), yet it's miles better than 99 percent of today's guitar pop. Singer/guitarist/songwriter Joe Nolte perfected this style two decades before it became cool, and shows no signs of having misplaced anything during the layoff. The music is crisp, the lyrics astute (no one is immune to the uncomfortable "It's Not That Way," where the singer is paralyzed by fear on how to turn a platonic relationship into a physical one). Add brother Mike Nolte, still rounding out the effortless, trademark Nolte harmonies, and a broader palette, and Gin makes six for six. On the minus side, a few lesser tracks could have been edited, but on the plus side, sympathetic producer Earle Mankey, a Paisley Underground legend, is more versatile than Descendents/All drummer Bill Stevenson, who did the last two. Mankey mines a deeper bass sound and lovelier shimmer for the pretty tracks, which hearken back to their vintage brilliance, "Sirens," "Song/Unordinary Substance," and "You Won't Win." Give the Last a chance if it's the last thing you do.

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