Switching labels and losing Lee, who went off to a new career in Strangelove, the Aeroplanes keep things steady as they go on Life Model, producing themselves on a ten-song set that retains all the sometimes gentle, sometimes strong charm of their work as a whole. Model is actually more elaborate in some ways than before thanks to appearances by full string and woodwind sections, while the core group plus the usual assortment of guest players, especially long-time jack of all trades player Ian Kearey, create another set of memorable songs for Langley's ponderings. One of his best lyrics yet comes with one of his best titles, "(I'm a) Smart Drug," mixing attitude with a clever reference to one of the '90s odder pop culture results. "Daughter Movie" takes a gentler then sharper view on a trip back to Hollywood and its attendant emotional baggage. One thing Model definitely is is a bit more upfront on the louder tunes -- "Broken and Mended" kicks the album off with a confident blast, though Langley wisely doesn't try to outshout the music, his delivery still perfectly suited to deliver through songs rather than compete with them. "Open" is simply wonderful, building up to a great final jam from the band. As always, the Aeroplanes mix up the more energetic numbers with the more reflective, like the banjo/woodwind mix of "Honey I," though at points instead of the low-key of recent albums other approaches suggest themselves. "Ghost-Nets," with its buried feedback wails and softly reverbed lead melody, is as close as the Aeroplanes will get to goth, while the great, anthemic album closer "Fragile" is a lovely mix of soul and shimmering guitars. Once again Allen gets his own moment to shine on vocals with "Frightened at Night," taking a slightly whispery approach over a neat low-key groover with echoing, Morricone-inspired guitar.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett