The Roadside Graves

What Happened to Him Could Happen to You

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Man, the Roadside Graves is just a friggin' awesome band name, isn't it? The combination of the band name and the similarly foreboding album title What Happened to Him Could Happen to Anyone suggests to potential listeners that this debut album is going to be something like one of those old pulp paperbacks from Hard Case Crime set to music: scuzzy, noisy rock & roll with lyrics straight out of Jim Thompson or Richard Stark. In fact, this seven-track teaser EP reveals the Roadside Graves to be more along the more polite lines of Clem Snide or Will Oldham: acoustic guitars and piano are the musical core of What Happened to Him Could Happen to Anyone, and lead singer John Gleason has a weedy whine of a voice that strains for a sort of alt-country authenticity that someone from New Jersey is not particularly likely to possess. The handful of strong tunes, like the mournful "Song for a Dry State" and the wry waltz "Jesus Is a Friend of the Family," showcase the Roadside Graves' low-key charms, but when a seven-track EP contains slight, filler tunes like the overlong, plodding "Reverend Blue Jeans," it doesn't bode well for the full-length to come. On the other hand, the one song on What Happened to Him Could Happen to Anyone that will be on said album in this form, "West Coast," is a sparkling pop tune that sounds like Neutral Milk Hotel channeling Gram Parsons-era Byrds, which largely makes up for some of the less imaginative material to follow.

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