So few roots-oriented bands manage to be accessible that there's a danger of going overboard when one comes into sight. But the BoDeans, out of Wisconsin, are one of the few so let's go overboard a bit.
Guitarists Sammy Llanas and Kurt Newmann write tight, snappy pop songs that acknowledge tradition and then expand on it this is no mere revivalism or wistful nostalgia. The LP opens with "She's a Runaway," the tale of a woman who "got beat up one too many times" and took the law into her own hands, and then proceeds through ten more ruminations on love and life that manipulate classic Fifties and Sixties rock and country forms as if they were good-luck charms. T-Bone Burnett is an ideal choice to produce the BoDeans (and Llanas's voice is strikingly similar to Burnett's nasal snarl): the strippeddown sound is a slightly more cluttered extension of the clear, direct sound Burnett helped Declan MacManus, a.k.a. Elvis Costello, achieve on King of America, and Burnett's unobtrusive approach to Llanas and Newmann's songs lets the compositions breathe.
The BoDeans' impressive debut may nonetheless be a shout into the void. Despite the reams written about getting back to basics, most radio music is constructed around a synthesizer and a drum machine, but this album's strongest tracks the gorgeous, Tex-Mex-flavored "Still the Night" and its single, the hard, chunking "Fadeaway" are so stark and unfussy that they'd seem out of place between synth moaners in vapid radio formats. Though there are minor problems with Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams many of the best songs are crammed onto the first side, for instance the joys of this tough music makes such criticisms seem petty. (RS 482)
(Posted: Sep 11, 1986)
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