All Fall Down is the second album from The 77s and it’s a definite improvement on their first album. Singer-songwriter Mike Roe has refined his craft in terms of his lyrics so the Christian preachiness that detracted from their first album is somewhat diminished here, though his faith is still an influence on the songs here. The instrumentation here isn’t as showy here either, but the album builds a real mood of a new-wavey cool. There’s a lot of compassion here and a lot of different perspectives. Caught In an Unguarded Moment is a song about people making mistakes in a moment of weakness that have tragic effects. Somethings Holding On is a great anthem about a casual sexual relationship that seems to, against all odds, developing into something more meaningful. Your Pretty Baby is a gorgeous acoustic ballad about abortion and it manages to make you feel the sadness of main character without being a preachy anti-choice screed. You Don’t Scare Me is a swaggering, bluesy stomp about finding freedom from the fear of everything from rejection to death itself. Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba is probably the best song on the record, a catchy melody married to an upbeat pop arrangement with lyrics that are a cynical takedown of self-centered consumerism. It’s a real masterpiece of pointed protest lyrics married to a surprisingly gorgeous pop tune. The album also has a couple of hidden tracks. One is a real rocker called Tattoo that might have been hidden because talk of tattoos, even metaphoric ones, might be too edgy for the Christian market; the other is a quiet, really devastated acoustic rendering of Lou Reed’s Jesus, maybe hidden because it’s the most obviously devotional song on the record even though it is, after all, a Lou Reed cover. The current CD also has a couple of bonus tracks, including two versions of a song called Locked Inside This Moment that is a really, really wonderful love song. This is really just an album that’s firing on all cylinders. The musical arrangements are sharp and moody, the melodies are catchy and memorable and the lyrics are more poetic and interesting than on the first record. This is a really great record and, frankly, I wouldn’t change a thing on it, except for a very weird spoken word track that is the third hidden track. But is not only a hidden track, but also the LAST hidden track, so it’s an easy skip. A lot of people consider this the 77s second best record after their third album; I’m giving it a listen next, so we’ll see, but it’s going to have to go a very, very long way to beat this one. You’ll be humming these songs for days and maybe actually thinking about the lyrics too and how often can you say that? 4 stars.
tl;dr – group moves into more poetic & compassionate territory with lyrics & allowing emotion to trump instrumental flair; great song by song & also more than the sum of those songs. 4 stars.