The Drowners

Muted to a Whisper [Morphine Lane]

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With their fourth album, Muted to a Whisper, Sweden's Drowners return to indie-dom after a failed dalliance with the Creed peddlers at Wind-Up Records. If the band's high-octane pop has always been top-notch, this 11-song disc upholds their reputation, updating the formula that Canada's the Pursuit of Happiness perfected on Love Junk in the late '80s while using acoustic guitars whenever feasible. "Stuck in Those Positions" is an upbeat, echo-saturated anthem in the vein of modern-day Weezer that boasts singer Magnus Vikström's Joe Jackson-like pipes. Other rockers -- like "Anyone's Girl," the manic, edgy "Die Hard Fan" (about adulating disciples), and the contagious, techno-touched "On the Radio" (which addresses the group's discontent with Wind-Up) -- find hooks and ferocity in abundance. Elsewhere, the stripped-down, lovelorn "Jennifer" houses a swooning chorus and shows a tender side of the band, while "Permanent Five" displays yet another dimension, as distorted vocals bring both Sparklehorse and the Fall to mind. Only the Beatles cover "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" fails to impress -- after all, who could add value to that classic? But despite that fact, the rest of these tracks are winners.

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