The Dexateens

Hardwire Healing

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Three albums into their career, Tuscaloosa quartet the Dexateens have all but entirely abandoned the punk rock of their early records. Produced by the somewhat unlikely team of Sugar bassist David Barbe and Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, Hardwire Healing is ironic in that this is certainly the least Drive-By Truckers-like album the Dexateens have yet released. This album still rocks effectively, but particularly on its second half, a newfound restraint appears. Indeed, the final third of the album is almost entirely acoustic, exploring a lower-voltage and more overtly country and blues-influenced sound than before, and it's the best the Dexateens have ever been. In particular, the surprisingly gentle ballad "Nadine," which is little more than an acoustic guitar and an emotionally strained, J Mascis-like vocal from Elliott McPherson, is one of the band's most compelling tunes, and the only marginally more arranged "Outside the Loop," built on a lazy shuffle rhythm and woozy steel guitar part, rocks just as hard as any of their punkier sides. One hesitates to use the word "mature" in this context, but where a lot of the Dexateens' retro-punky compatriots have either started the slide into self-parody or already broken up, Hardwire Healing shows a more than welcome level of progress.

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