Songs for Strippers (And Other Professions)

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There's something about roots rock as willfully claimed by its practitioners that seems increasingly strange the more the 21st century progresses -- after all, at what point can it really be claimed something is uniquely '"rootsy" when a potential listener's roots can just as easily be 2 Unlimited or the Notorious B.I.G. or Arvo Pärt as it is, say, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers? Thus the unavoidable context of Swallows' Songs for Strippers and Other Professions, which adheres to a happy belief in the power of bluesy swagger and good-time jams and the kind of attitude that there's nothing better than that, an eternal 1970 spiked with a sense of sturdy '90s rock (of the neo-AOR variety rather than slacker crypticness). It's a little frustrating because every so often this all gets put together with a sense of truly lovely craft -- "Bottom Feeder" becomes a neo-sea shanty, complete with strings, that nearly takes the whole album to a new level on its own -- while around the corners there's bits of random psychedelia creeping out ("I Won't Let You Down" draws on the same late-night moodout that the Darkside's "Guitar Voodoo" does, at least initially, while the occasional frazzled solo and reverb overload hits related touchstones). It's all well performed and sounds nice, and doubtless will please a listener who's already inclined to such sounds, but somehow one can't help imagining the bar scene that the band might always be best at home in, providing a comfort zone that may never truly be transgressed.

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