CD Reviews

MARAH

Float Away With the Friday Night Gods

(E-Squared/Artemis)

Boss-endorsed bubblegum effort from Philly combo.

This ain't your mother's Marah. Fans expecting some alt-roots/Replacements-play-Springsteen outfit can check those notions in the lobby. Philly's favorite sons are making their commercial move on their third album (2000's Kids in Philly was for the critics) in a big, loud, arena-filling way. By way of getting everyone's attention, the Boss himself turns up on the first single, "Float Away," although his guitar/vocal presence is barely noted; instead, the tune's a full-on, infectious, power-pop thumper given a glossy, Oasis-like sheen by producer/ keyboardist Owen Morris (who, not so coincidentally, has worked with Oasis). In fact, close your eyes, and for most of this recorded-in-Wales album, you're in Britpop heaven, both old-school (the snarky hand claps and riffs of T. Rex-like "Revolution") and new ("Crying on an Airplane" is stripped-down Verve). And just plain classic, too: "Leaving" sounds like Bowie tinkering with his "Heroes" template for rock clubbers. Bubblegum, to be sure, but you can stick Float Away With . . . on your bedpost at night and it'll still taste great in the morning.

The only alarming note—and it's a biggie—comes on "Shame," in which Marah's Dave Bielanko adopts that god- awful Modern Rock Singer persona (is he the guy from Matchbox 20? Third Eye Blind?) and guest vocalist Caroline Lost (or is it Mandy Moore?) gets all sugar-fly girl while the band cedes its arrangement to Garbage-like sequencer melodies and programmed beatz. Can a massive dance remix and endless DJ mispronunciations of the word "Marah" be far behind? You read it here first. FRED MILLS

ALL-TIME QUARTERBACK

S/T

(Barsuk)

Death Cab driver reintroduces the two-minute drill.

I don't know much about Death Cab for Cutie (just the words you want to hear from a guy who's about to scrutinize their lead singer), but after seeing three live shows and owning We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes for a month, mostly benign details persist: orchestral, earnest, radio-unfriendly emo-pop with occasionally incredible lyrics. Oh, yeah . . . all their songs pretty much sound alike, which would be less of a hang-up if the product weren't so preternaturally refined and passive. All-Time Quarterback, frontman Ben Gibbard's freshly spit-shined 1999 solo alias, is accurately advertised as lo-fi Death Cab; half culled from an out-of-print EP and half culled from the gravelly D.I.Y. cassette The Envelope Sessions, ATQ has a swap meet intimacy that should floor existing fans. Gibbard's familiar peak-and-valley phrasing often conceals uniquely withering observations ("It can't be colder in Cleveland than it is right here"; "Plans got complex when the cop cars finally stepped up to bat"). Envelope tracks like "Empire State" and "Sock Hop" are raw and short, inundated with hammering acoustic strums. In the enhanced CD video for "Plans Get Complex," Gibbard plays a porn-obsessed, headphones- wearing loner who walks around London singing to himself. Been there, Ben. ANDREW BONAZELLI

Ben Gibbard plays the Crocodile Cafe at 4 p.m. Sat., July 13. $8. All ages.

 
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