Marah 20,000 Streets Under The Sky

Marah 20,000 Streets Under The Sky
Listening to Marah’s fourth album reminded me of a recent conversation I had with a baby boomer about why he doesn’t listen to many new rock bands. The con they use, he believed, is a simple game of "guess our influences.” While I couldn’t totally disagree, this album is thankfully a reminder that Marah, despite being masters of such a game, continue to remain tapped into a raw, wide-eyed energy that only a pure love of rock’n’roll can generate. Since they started, that love has led Marah’s principles, brothers Dave and Serge Bielanko, to win praise from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle, and High Fidelity author Nick Hornby. That’s not to say their previous albums have always deserved praise; their debut, Let’s Cut The Crap And Hook Up Later On Tonight, was a true grower due to its ramshackle production. The follow-up, Kids In Philly, was a big improvement, but the Bielankos took a step back with 2002’s Float Away With The Friday Night Gods, a failed attempt at Britpop. 20,000 Streets rights things simply by bringing it all back home. From the dramatic opener "East,” the brothers clearly have something to prove, namely that (like Springsteen circa Born To Run) it’s about time they started living up to the hype. Generally they do, heading back to the streets of their beloved Philadelphia and channelling that spirit into a boisterous and bittersweet soundtrack. Songs like "Pizzeria” and "Body” are mini-movies unto themselves, often with ’60s girl-group harmonies driving the point home. Add to that the fact that the Bielankos can pull off lines like "Your dollar slices and your backroom vices/ were in my blood when I rolled the dices,” without a trace of irony, easily makes this their best album so far. Yes, to some it may sound derivative, but at the music’s heart, Marah has captured a mythical inner city America rarely seen these days, one that is a little sleazy and dangerous, but above all, alive. (Yep Roc)