Dancing Hoods

Hallelujah Anyway

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The spiky notoriety attached to the Minneapolis sound inspired numerous, less-edgy cousins during the 1980s -- like Dancing Hoods, who tried hard to garner the requisite heavy rotation with this album. They almost got it with "Baby's Got Rockets," a shimmery acoustic ballad which earned minor airplay and is among the highlights here. The strategy yields mixed results. "Torn Away" opens the album on a rousing note, with singer/guitarist Bob Bortnick vowing to hang on "till the love gets torn away." "Border Patrol," "Crooked Angel," and "Tell You Something" are equally crisp and self-assured pop/rockers, while the band also pulls off a convincing rustic mood on the slow-burning "Falling Down." Bortnick and fellow singer/guitarist Mark Linkous also stretch out on a remake of Leonard Cohen's "Diamonds in the Mine" -- which is as adventurous as this record gets. Unfortunately, a three-year gap between albums hasn't sharpened the songwriting: Dancing Hoods' grungy dress code equals that of the Replacements, yet lacks their better-known rivals' go-for-broke insights. "Puppet Dancing" -- a tedious, plodding stab at organized religion -- just doesn't get off the ground, while "Better Look Up" is a pallid alternative pop knockoff. "Welfare Shoes" takes a left turn into country, but doesn't make much of an impression. A nagging banality dogs even the best tracks -- like the "empty houses and empty lives" that Bortnick can't wait to tell listeners about on "Torn Away." This tendency leads to some comically trite lyrics on "Border Patrol," where the singer "can't afford a Cadillac," but is "much too young for a cardiac." Huh? In hindsight, this album seems straitjacketed by its strategic considerations: namely, a slick production that tries to retain the band's groove, but without scaring off the radio from playing it. Bands like Dancing Hoods couldn't fulfill such a conflicting assignments, so fame played a cruel joke in the almost-hit that netted brief attention and expired without a fuss. This album's far from embarrassing, but also little more than acceptable '80s college rock fodder.

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