Sarandon's Age of Reason

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Given their strictly structured musical approach and habit of announcing their intentions in their album titles, Sarandon are the sort of band who seemed destined to make a concept album, even if they lack the studied seriousness that usually goes along with such endeavors. So it should come as no great surprise that the band's third album, Sarandon's Age of Reason, is indeed a concept project, though the overriding theme is pretty flimsy -- the songs reflect the thoughts and ideals of a schlubby-sounding regular guy who pops up between songs to mutter about rare days when things go right, the glories of friendship, his disgust with overpriced pubs, how fashion ignores stocky guys, and that glorious day he brought cheese to school. The subtle comedy of the spoken passages stands in stark contrast to the actual music, in which Sarandon sound as edgy, frantic, and curiously precise as ever, with bassist Alan Brown and drummer Tom Greenhalgh holding the songs together with a rhythmic assault that could seemingly fly apart in a moment's notice while guitarist Crayola (aka Simon Williams) lays sharp, flailing chords over the top. Sarandon's gift is that they play music that seems to be exploding in a dozen directions at once on the surface, but careful examination reveals it was crafted with much careful thought and the bits fit together with the craftsmanship of a pocket watch. On Age of Reason, Sarandon split the difference between Wire, Primus, and Captain Beefheart, add a portion of lyrical absurdity in the grand tradition of British comedy, and end up with an album that's somehow endearing and witty no matter how hard these guys try to make the music off-putting; for all the sharp angles, Age of Reason doesn't stab so much as it nudges, and this aural poke in the ribs is pretty entertaining if you're up for it.

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