Varnaline's 1996 release, Man of Sin, showed Anders Parker to be an extraordinary, multitalented songwriter who really knew how to externalize the drama of his life. Gripping compassion, lucidity, anguish, and a real sense of mortality imbued Parker's songs with a fervent pathos. Varnaline's new self-titled album finds Anders working with the hard-driving rhythm section that he recruited right after completing his first solo Varnaline album, Man of Sin. This is a winning combination of musicians. Jud Ehrbar's dreamy backing vocals and succinct approach to the drums and John Parker's rolling basslines act as footnotes to Anders' sincere songwriting style. In Varnaline's confessional, "powerheart" brand of rock & roll, all that is personal and intense comes bubbling to the surface. Themes of loneliness, misunderstanding, and various other tailor-made emotional pangs wind their way through this album. In "Really Can't Say," you can almost feel your heart beating in your unaccepting head while Anders repeats, "I really can't say to you, 'goodbye'." Many Neil Young comparisons have been made when referring to Parker's songwriting, but that immediately classifies him in an unjust category. True, the work of each has many common threads, but with the addition of the new rhythm section, there is the volatile subtlety of jazz in Varnaline's foundation, and Anders' focused guitar work brings out aspects also found in the likes of Big Star and the Replacements. This is a perfect album dealing with a less than perfect world.
AllMusic Review by Greg Matherly