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Bright Men of Learning

Self-release

Distant echoes of Black and Blue-era Stones, as well as the more recent releases from Pavement and the Replacements, are all easy to detect on this 11-song collection from this local quartet. Unfortunately, with a few small exceptions such as "Marching on Water" and "Geronimo" and one huge one we'll get to in a second, the album seldom rises above the merely competent.

Beneath Marshall Preddy's scruffy, hoarse vocals, the Bright Men sport a two-guitar attack with a standard rhythm section, and too often, the band's songs have a sound-alike feel -- is this "Cross" or "Blow Them Away"? There's not enough variation of tempo or texture -- you find yourself composing keyboard parts, fleshing out these skeletons of songs. And Preddy's voice is pretty thin itself -- the band could do with a second vocalist to trade off leads from time to time.

BMOL disappoints: The closing song is great, but everything else is only so-so.
BMOL disappoints: The closing song is great, but everything else is only so-so.

But none of that applies to the terrific album closer, "Right On!" Guitarists Preddy and Chris Kahlich tone down the distortion for once -- here they weave in and out of unison and create a warm, fuzzed-out feel and a memorable riff. The song has a laid-back tempo, the lyrics are uplifting, and you can't help but smile. This is where they sound the most like their own band rather than the sum of four very good record collections.

 
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