The Crust Brothers

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It's hard to put a finger on what makes this album a worthy purchase. It could be that it's refreshing to hear two heavyweights of the alternative rock, lo-fi movement playing -- for the most part -- mainstream, classic rock songs. Or, maybe -- to fans of earlier Silkworm and Pavement work -- it's that their behavior on this album is abnormally conformist for these notoriously anti-establishment artists; however, it's probably just the fact that they play the songs so well. As far as sound quality goes, the recording of the show is commendable, but the band is rough around the edges due to their lack of practice. In reality, they are just having a good time, and the listener shouldn't look any further than this. Steve Malkmus seems to feel comfortable making the transition into this genre. It certainly seems to allow him to redirect his creative energy into his guitar playing. Stylistically, Malkmus and Silkworm have always hinged on a certain cynicism of mainstream rock music. To predict that any of these artists would have ever been caught on stage performing a classic rock tribute would've been impossible. Much of their past music seems to be more focused on disillusioned reality. The set list is, for the most part, a testament of respect to Bob Dylan. The first six songs of the album are Dylan's work, five of them from his legendary Basement Tapes. They mix one Silkworm song in the middle of the set, and the rest of the album draws tricks from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Rolling Stones, the Byrds, and Cheap Trick. Hidden on the B-side of the album are two fine gems. When Malkmus takes on Silkworm's "Never Met a Man I Didn't Like," he finds harmony and produces a convincing sincerity that almost seems out of place on the album. Malkmus' struggles with the tempo of the tune are apparent as he gasps for air between the lines. "Heard It Through the Grapevine" is also particularly powerful. Malkmus delivers some great guitar licks, and the band seems to find a common ground. The album is fun, and a treat for serious fans, but to the uninitiated, it's a bit unbearable.

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