A lot of serious fans of the 77s think this is the album where they should have broken big. Personally, I’ve given up on second-guessing why something does or doesn’t go mainstream; I mean, who knows? If you want to make that case for this album, you could just as easily make it for All Fall Down, they’re previous album. But this album does find the band comfortable enough in the sound and attitude they figured out on All Fall Down to take some interesting detours. This album is really just uniformly superlative. It opens with the fist-pumping Springsteen by way of U2 anthem Do It For Love, moves onto the snarling What Was In That Letter (which features an astoundingly cool disco riff) and then devolves into the grim, minor-key Pearls Before Swine, a seven minute live track that’s mostly just an instrumental. Then there’s the quiet, sorrowful Frames Without Photographs and the albums surprising final track, I Could Laugh, a nearly eight minute track that features one of Roe’s most elliptical lyrics and a beautiful musical backing of only an acoustic guitar. It’s a track that took some warming up to, but it’s strange and catchy at the same time. The centerpiece of the album, though, is absolutely The Lust, the Flesh, the Eyes & the Pride of Life, a jangle-pop tune that’s heavily influenced by the Byrds; it features both Roe’s cleverest and creatively structured lyrics and one of his best vocal performances. This is, all things together, a genuinely great album without a dull moment. It’s more experimental, if somewhat less emotionally deep, than All Fall Down and finds the band working at the height of their powers. 4 stars.
tl;dr – group’s third album finds them trying some new things, but not getting too crazy; the result is a uniformly excellent set of songs that adds up to even more than the sum of its parts. 4 stars.