Let's Cut the Crap and Hook Up Later on Tonight

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It may seem odd for an alt-country band to kick off their debut album with some Dixieland-style jazz, but that's exactly what Marah does on Let's Cut the Crap & Hook Up Later on Tonight. That is, until they break into the first chords of "Fever," the shambling opening track. Like everything on the album, it sounds suitably worn, like a loving musical hand-me-down. "Another Day at Bay" follows as singer Dave Bielanko tosses off the opening lines "Whiskey and tobacco/melancholia and black lungs" against a rich musical backing reminiscent of the Band. Echoes of many groups can be heard throughout Let's Cut the Crap, but Marah recognizes that, while they may or may not be influences, they are, more importantly, a part of the rock & roll tradition. Any nods to the past feel so intuitive you are compelled to ignore them. While "Eventually Rock" may sound like Vic Chesnutt covering Bruce Springsteen, all that matters is that the group delivers it with a joy that's completely infectious. Plenty of good humor is on hand, too. Marah is described by a fake radio announcer as "velvety throated teen idol sensations" as they take their place on a baseball field, under pouring rain to sing the national anthem. They also have a firm understanding of rock's clich├ęs; the music's attitude informs Bielanko's philosophy. "You learn to love when you're a baby," he sings at the opening of "Another Day at Bay," sounding like a complete mess, "You learn dying when you die/You learn drinking when you're working." Someone attempts to blow into a jug for a good, old-time feel and fails miserably, hardly getting a tone out at all. "Head On" even seems to catch the band by surprise: they dive in before everyone's gotten a hold of their instruments. Sparkling horns enter, punctuating the barn-storming rock & roll. It's not all good times on Let's Cut the Crap. There is, for example, the potent self-realization of "For the Price of a Song" and the aching loser's anthem "Formula, Cola, Dollar Draft." Perhaps no one is better at this blend than Steve Earle, a singer/songwriter whose company many would love to be in after their debut record.

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