Dan Sartain's career as roots-oriented avatar, given the blessing of high-profile fans like Jack White and John Reis, is its own understandable success story. Yet the sometimes chirpy, peppy angst of Lives, the musician's fifth album, is a strange creation in some respects, at points feeling like an '80s college rock album that looks back at various '60s garage rock touchstones rather than directly nodding to one approach or another. It can be heard at points in the music's rushed and trebly kick refracted through surf lines and arrangements that reach all the way back to any number of Middle Eastern touchstones via Dick Dale (consider the breaks on the opening "Those Thoughts" as an example or the shimmering lead melody on "Bad Things Will Happen"). Elsewhere there's a kind of spaghetti western twang on "Walk Among the Cobras IV" and "Ruby Carol" that suggests a pop Morricone or Lee Hazlewood's sprightlier side. Other slower, brawlier numbers continue the sense of extended after-echo, something that feels strangely out of place on the one hand, yet probably only does so because it signals an approach that has fallen out of favor over the years. Still, once or twice, as on "Yes Men," there's something that almost suggests the breezy kick of prime Monochrome Set, a kind of happy playing around with styles that could reward closer attention in the future.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett