The Breakup Society

Nobody Likes a Winner

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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming

Considering that his earlier band the Frampton Brothers released an album called File Under F for Failure, Ed Masley has become something of a self-taught authority on the subject of things not working out, and he has plenty more to say regarding his favorite theme on Nobody Likes a Winner, the second album from his most recent project, the Breakup Society. Masley's keen wit and rollicking loud pop hooks have buffered the sharper edges of his angst in the past, but Nobody Likes a Winner is easily his most mature and ambitious album to date, and while Masley hasn't lost his sense of humor, the songs on this album cut a bit deeper into the nature of disappointment than he's been willing to go in the past, as well as venturing into musical territory he hasn't explored before. There's plenty of straight-ahead rock & roll on Nobody Likes a Winner -- cue up "The 13th Angry Man," "Another Candlelit Night," and the title tune -- but Masley and producer Bob Hoag take some detours into British Invasion-style pop ("By a Thread," featuring guest vocals from Scott McCaughey), slow and dreamlike mood pieces ("This Doesn't Matter" and "This Little Tragedy"), and at least one tune that's a dead ringer for the Face to Face-era Kinks ("Lower Expectations"), not to mention two songs that feature actual horns and strings. Masley aims higher with Nobody Likes a Winner than before, but he does so without a drop of pretension, and the regular-guy vibe that's always permeated his work makes the aging sad sack of "Lowered Expectations," the disillusioned lovers of "How Failure Saved Me from Myself" and "This Doesn't Matter," and the conscience-stricken protagonists of "No One Wants to Be Remembered" and "By a Thread" all the easier to relate to, and poignant without sinking into sentimental treacle. Maybe nobody likes a winner, but on this album Masley's losers are people with stories worth hearing set to music that's both smart and bracing, and this represents a new high-water mark for one of the unsung heroes of contemporary rock songwriting.

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