The Mabuses

Mabused!

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The return of the Mabuses after over a decade's silence is a bit of an unexpected turn of events, but likely enough Kim Fahy was wondering why the rest of the world -- or at least a good chunk of American indie rock in particular -- had taken so long to catch up with his warm and winning take on arty and off-kilter pop/rock of a definite late-'60s/early-'70s vintage. (That may seem a slight overstatement, but not after one's listened to a lot of things on the Elephant 6 label.) Heading up a sprawling assemblage of players, including longtime supporter Kramer as well as some honest surprises -- Siouxsie and the Banshees fans who wondered where guitarist John Valentine Carruthers had gotten to need wonder no more -- Fahy's baker's dozen-plus-one collection of songs is simultaneously of the form and just off enough, with overlapping melody lines, instrumental parts dropping in and out of nowhere, and a general air of fraying edges. But the key is that this isn't sloppy work but intentional fracturing on a record where lyrics like "Carry me to the gallows where the hangman is my bride" and "I'm the greatest coward on earth" are at play. One of the sharper moves is the inclusion of old classic blues samples on such songs like "Mirth," but instead of Moby-style heavily-drenched significance, the contrast between hearing Skip James or Charley Patton with Fahy's peppy songs, detailed orchestrations and air of frenzy is one of participatory exuberance, if unintentional and after the fact. Meantime, the more controlled songs, like the wonderful "Byayaba," with Fahy's slightly stern but not at all cold voice anchoring the slow, suddenly captivating lope of the music, are no less compelling.

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