Marah- Angels Of Destruction! (Yep Roc)

Featured — By on January 13, 2008 at 9:39 pm

In years of listening to Marah records, I’ve never picked up on a religious theme, so it seems odd to note several holy allusions on their sixth and latest album- starting with the album title itself. Angels Of Destruction! comes with a rockin’ title track that does a stellar job of channeling sticky-fingered Stones of the early 70’s… and while there’s nothing holy about that, brown sugar, there is a recurring gospel feel to several of the tunes on the album. “Angels On A Passing Train” is glorious with Christine Smith’s piano perfectly punctuating David Bielanko’s poetic verse phrases (“conversation lags with the day’s first fags, it drags and drags and drags”) and an uplifting, power surge of a chorus.

“Jesus In The Temple” may be simultaneously the most directly spiritual and unholy-as-all-hell song on the album due to its title (Jesus-y!) and the fact that it’s the first Marah song written and sung by drummer Dave Petersen (sacrilege!). You know that it’s a real Hail Mary when you let the drummer sing- witness Don Henley’s Eagles tunes, “Sister Christian” by Night Ranger, and all things Ringo (come to think of it, when the drummer takes the mic it usually turns out that he’s a puss)- but “Jesus In The Temple”, while not an album highlight, manages to skate by without disturbing the flow. The last song listed on the album, “Wilderness”, conjures up images of a revival with its stomping rhythm and Serge Bielanko’s testifying lead vocal. The bagpipes and clavinet coda is a real cultural mash-up… picture Stevie Wonder jamming with a St. Patrick’s Day parade band. Elsewhere on Angels, the listener gets an assortment: murky first-person poetry (“Coughing Up Blood”), a shimmering slow jam (“Blue But Cool”), and vintage Springsteen-meets-the-Mummers Marah jams (“Santos De Madera”… again a divine touch). Quality-wise, it stacks up as a fine rock record, but in the Marah oeuvre, it is no epiphany. These former Philly kids have kept the faith pretty consistently in their ten years of record-making, and if life in 2008 America has them looking heavenward for help, they can count on my blessing.

RATING (1-10): 7.5

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