Marah, Angels of Destruction!

Jesse Farrell

By Jesse Farrell

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Many bands fall into the trap of making albums that are complex instead of catchy, writing lyrics too clever to sing along with, and music that's more complicated than hummable. It's as if they're afraid to get caught enjoying themselves.

Roots-rock quintet picks choruses over complexity.

Marah is not that kind of band.

The band honed their chops by logging years on the road, not in the studio, and their music is accordingly loose and unmannered. When they're feeling adventurous, the quintet simply augments their gritty roots rock with unconventional instrumentation: a bagpipe turns up "Wilderness," a banjo on "Coughing Up Blood."

There are knowing echoes of Leonard Cohen in Dave Bielanko's lyrics, and the rough-edged energy of the Rolling Stones in the music, which suits the band's history of combining the earthy with the astute. Originally from Philadelphia and lately of Brooklyn, Marah has worked with both Bruce Springsteen and NPR's Sarah Vowell, so their literary credentials match their musical abilities. Themes of sin (mostly caused by fast living) and redemption are all over Angels, giving the record a unified feel without ever seeming forced or self-conscious. It's the music, not the band, that's the star of Angels of Destruction. Isn't that how it should be?