The breathless and seemingly reckless rock & roll tone that dominates Marah's music has always been at odds with the modern-day cultural/emotional phantasmagoria that functions as its lyrical approach. On 20,000, the dichotomy is further refined; groovy "shimmy-shimmy-coco-pop" refrains distract from lyrics like "broken glass, $5 baggies on the ground" ("Freedom Park") while a chorus of "dive bombing through shitstorm wars" is buffeted by a gleeful "hey, hey, hey" ("Pigeon Heart"). If Paul Westerberg scraped his soul while falling all over himself in The Replacements, Marah vocalist Dave Bielanko seems to be using giddy, full-bore rock & roll as an excuse to infect as many of us as possible with his bleakly intense worldview. You can't help but jump up and sing along, but then you realize you've just sung a paean to a transvestite or let loose a line like "the river smelled like a fishmonger's hands." Uncomfortable dichotomy or no, Marah is a powerful band on several different levels, primarily because of the multiple levels of intensity that can be gleaned from 20,000 Streets. Although some critics Nick Hornby most notably were able to glean some redemptive power from the Marah experience, I'm not going to go that far. However, there is a lot here to enjoy. Wanna shake your ass or ponder the intolerables; wanna rock out with your cock out or slit your wrists? Whatever you need from rock & roll, Marah's got it.
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