Life in a Blender

Tell Me I'm Pretty

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Admittedly it's a case of slightly dashed expectations (for some) when it turns out that opening song "Something Must Break" is an original rather than a Joy Division cover, but who says that titles can't be used again, after all? As for Life in a Blender itself, at this stage in its lengthy existence the Brooklyn-based septet seems to occupy a quirky space between Firewater and Soul Coughing when it comes to try-anything-once eclecticism with the lead singer's voice and vision front and center. In that regard the group seems like one of those many New York bands that has a love and hate relationship with rock & roll as such -- they can certainly crank the volume as needed and drummer Ken Meyer can get some full-bodied stomp in, but there's no mistaking them for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or the Ramones. Lead figure and songwriter Don Ralph is unsurprisingly still at the core of it all when it comes to how the band can both work and not work in equal measure. Sometimes he seems to be exaggerating a strident speak-singing approach that aims for wry and witty but can just be tiring (or else seems to be trying to fulfill the non-present demand for a clear-singing Tom Waits). Then again, he can just as easily find a breezy, bemused wistfulness that works far better, sometimes in the same song ("Kent" and "Paterson Falls" in particular capture him at both his best and worst). When both band and singer bring it together to concentrate on a good song -- the wistful New Orleans jazz/sea shantey tip to the street cleaners "Mobile Wash Unit," the spaghetti Western-tinged drama of "Eyes Are Red" -- then the group really has a certain fun and entertaining something.

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