Record review

Phases & Stages


20,000 Streets Under the Sky (Yep Roc)

The raggedy man romanticism of Philly's Bielanko brothers is pure Asbury Park, N.J. Three lines into 20,000 Streets Under the Sky, the pair's fourth LP under the Marah moniker, and Camden's already been name-checked. Saying these wild and not-so-innocent boys traffic in Springsteen is a misnomer only in that David Bielanko sounds more like Little Steven – pinched, nasal. On "Sure Thing" he's positively Graham Parker. Nevertheless, the infectious exuberance of the group's debut, 1998's Let's Cut the Crap and Hook Up Later On Tonight, returns to its full glory days after a pair of enthusiastically underwritten albums on Steve Earle's E-Squared/ Artemis imprint. Streets gets Big as a Tom Hanks movie by its second cut, "Freedom Park," with its boardwalk wallop ("shimmy shimmy koko-pop"). It's rousing, piano-fed chandelier rock, pure Born to Run. A percussion triangle goes a long way in Marah's mulch of acoustics, electrics, banjo, trumpet, and reeds of every size. Nothing else on 20,000 Streets can touch "Freedom Park," though harp-ridden riffer "Pigeon Heart" rocks winningly. Coming closest is the lilting "Soda," which wishes it were on The River ("underneath invisible stars these dirty streets will forever be ours"), and could be. Hand claps are back for "Pizzeria," a slice of Elvis Costello. "Body," though taking place in the Bronx, circles back up the beach musically, coming upon a sunset in the closing instrumental title track. It's hard to be a saint in a city with 20,000 streets.


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