Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams

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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming

In 1986, a time when roots rock bands were struggling to sound as lean and scrappy as possible, one of the things that separated the BoDeans from the rest of the pack was their willingness to wear their hearts on their sleeves and fuse a romantic sensibility (albeit one with both feet planted firmly on the ground) with simple but potent guitar-based rock & roll, and they never did it better than on their first album, Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams. On "The Strangest Thing," Sam Llanas ends his litany of different kinds of love with the romance of his Mom and Dad, "Rickshaw Riding" is an unashamedly sentimental paean to a night full of possibilities, and the soulful plea of "Say You Will" finds Kurt Neumann quietly calling up the spirit of a generation of great R&B crooners. But if the BoDeans were four guys with love on their minds, they were also rockers, and the chugging push-and-pull of Neumann's twangy electric leads and Llanas' acoustic rhythm work were a simple but surprisingly powerful combination, and when they locked in with Guy Hoffman's drums and Bob Griffin's bass, they could work magic (and it's still a mystery how a song as gloriously catchy and uplifting as "Angels" failed to become a hit single). The BoDeans were also capable of looking at the tough side of love, such as "She's a Runaway" (a tale of a woman who finally gives some payback to her abusive husband), "Misery" (a funny but bitter kiss-off to an unfaithful girlfriend), and "That's All" (about the dashed hopes of a relationship gone on the skids). While this music was simple at heart, the BoDeans' passion and sincerity gave it strength, and T Bone Burnett's production allowed this band to sound as big as all outdoors. The BoDeans would enjoy greater success down the road, but they never made an album as powerful and satisfying as Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams, where their hearts and their guitars were in perfect sync.

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