Midway Still

Life's Too Long

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There's little stylistic change on album number two, and that's the way it should be. No one has grown tired of their sound and style, this somewhat American-ish ballsy loud punk-pop with Paul Thomson's hooky songs (no wonder they often support Mega City Four) and excellent singing. Not that they haven't improved or grown; while still rocking effectively, the group has advanced the dynamics a great deal, as shown by a batch of mildly lighter songs that break the sonic wall well, such as "Straight Line," where the steely guitar cuts out for whole verses and sticks to the background thereafter -- this is more thinking man's pop than punk, and it's reminiscent of the lovely transitions groups such as the Jam made as they matured. Leatherface frontman Frankie Stubbs gives the most sympathetic production imaginable, letting the more climatic parts blast (much like his own fiery band with a lesser smack) and the more introspective parts breathe and even jangle where appropriate. Mind you, the truly catchy single "Counting Days" is a dead ringer for It's a Shame About Ray Lemonheads (think "Rockin' Stroll"), and here and there a verse such as "Out of View" could be Nirvana with more modest production and without the football chant choruses, so you've heard something like this before. But it really isn't important identifying references. It's the first-rate pop songwriting (throughout all 12 songs, with the opening "Jamie and Gigi" the pick for a second single) and the much-improved arrangements (and flexible production) that indicate that this band both deserves U.S. release (the label with first rights, Seed, has passed both times) and much more acclaim both in the U.S. and the U.K. Hey man, one winning chorus after another counts for a lot around here!

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