Doug & the Slugs

Music for the Hard of Thinking

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The term "lightweight" is often used pejoratively in rock & roll. Doug & the Slugs, however, are musical lightweights in the best sense of the term: they work hard to deliver fun, light, entertaining records, of which Music for the Hard of Thinking is a prime example. Sixties bubblegum producer Ritchie Cordell sequences the album like a fantasy Top 40 radio station, mixing up some semi-obscure beach party classics ("Who Knows How to Make Love Stay" and a stomping live take of the Isley Brothers' chestnut "Nobody but Me"), a couple of Elton John-inspired piano ballads ("St. Laurent Summer" and "When the Doorbell Rings"), a bouncy, optimistic hit single ("Making It Work," which went Top 20 in Canada), and a memorably goofy duet to wrap it all up ("She's Looking at Me," a "Wooly Bully"-ish number in which Doug and deep-voiced Slugs keyboard player Simon Kendall trade insults for three minutes while unsuccessfully trying to catch a woman's eye). What makes this album a real keeper, though, is that if you dig a little deeper and get to the words hiding under the Slugs' peppy, poppy grooves, you'll find that the characters in singer/songwriter Doug Bennett's tunes are rarely as upbeat as the songs they inhabit. In fact, some of Bennett's narrators are cynical, sleazy misanthropes right out of Randy Newman (particularly the failed lotharios of "Operator" and "Take It or Leave It"), giving Music for the Hard of Thinking an unexpected depth that grows upon repeated listenings. Overall, Doug & the Slugs' third album may be a lightweight one, but like a lightweight boxer in his prime, this is a disc that can still, upon occasion, pack a pretty punch.

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