Social Life

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On their second full-length release, Koufax, slimmed down to a four-piece, swaggers with a sense of fashion and hipness bestowed by their knowing nods to the music that has so obviously informed their sound. The revamped lineup results in a more measured piece of work. Hints of new wave synth pop collide with the piano underpinnings of Warren Zevon and Randy Newman and merge with the college rock stylings of Guided by Voices and Pavement. With a full-on rock approach that leaves the band with at least one elegant foot in the Strokes/Vines/Hives camp of new rock for the 2000s generation, Social Life is steeped in the specific rock-speak of "us and them." Possessed with a distinctive -- love it or hate it -- voice, Robert Suchan's inflections enhance the emotions of being slightly uncomfortable with the world at large. Places are name-checked with gleeful abandon, words lounge over melody lines with no effort to force them into the standard patterns, all the while skirting the dangerous area where lyrical self-consciousness descends into novelty. Social Life rewards repeated listening, as the band clearly has evolved from the 2000 It Had to Do With Love release, and not just with the more predominant use of guitars here. The title track is positively a singalong, and "Saturdays Alone" is catchy and memorable. The overall effect is like a less-histrionic XTC emerging from a garage with an upbeat Ben Folds Five. Social Life is a distinguished piece of rock archeology with enough passion to suggest that Koufax may have a part to play in the unfolding tapestry of distinctive voices in the rock world. At the very least, the album is a timely reminder of the fact that the inventor of their preferred synthesizer, Moog, has a name rhyming with vogue.

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