There's nothing quite like a honkin' hit of Smog. I refer, natch, to Golden Smog, the Minneapolis-rooted, impromptu outfit that has variously included members of the Jayhawks (Gary Louris, Marc Perlman, Kraig Johnson), Soul Asylum (Dan Murphy) and Wilco (Jeff Tweedy). A scant nine months after the musical collective's first release in a coon's age, last year's Another Fine Day, the boys--minus the estimable Mr. Tweedy this time around--are back in a hurry with Blood on the Slacks, an eight-song appetizer that evolved from an originally planned EP.
In the grand Twin Cities tradition of quirky covers (consider yourself deprived if you've never heard Soul Asylum essay "To Sir With Love," or the Jayhawks wring tearful mischief out of Eric Carmen's "All By Myself"), the abbreviated set features notable versions of Dinosaur Jr.'s "Tarpit" and David Bowie's "Starman." Hell, the latter, sung beautifully by Louris and performed with a pastoral glam vibe that maybe only Minneapolis alt-rockers could muster, is alone worth the price of admission.
As the album's title hints with a wink and a lopsided grin, the six new originals herein play light and loose without ever plunging off the deep end. Well, OK, Murphy's frantic "Insecure" couldn't be much more ridiculous, but it clocks in at around a Manhattan minute, so it's all good. And "Scotch On Ice," a twisted little folk-pop ditty that celebrates the joys of inflatable love ("She comes in a box/My own private fox"), is a harmless kick in the pants.
On a slightly more grounded note, Louris, one of the Americana scene's most gifted and underappreciated songwriters, leaves his thoughtful, melodic stamp all over just about everything, especially "Can't Even Tie Your Own Shoes," "Look at You Now" and "Without a Struggle." The man has few peers.
What we have here is the sound of four guys and their co-conspirators having a blast and concocting some durable roots-rock along the way. Lighten up and breathe deep.
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