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by Luke Baumgarten and Carey Murphy & r & & r & Belle and Sebastian & lt;a href= & quot; & amp;offerid=78941 & amp;type=3 & amp;subid=0 & amp;tmpid=1826 & amp; & quot; & The Life Pursuit & lt;/a & THREE STARS & r & Stuart Murdock is not John Lennon. Even if he were, he still wouldn't have a songwriting partner on the level of Paul McCartney. That is to say, we can't expect Belle and Sebastian's sixth LP to be as good as its first or second. Those had a blue-moon, lightning-in-a-bottle compositional, lyrical and thematic synergy that blows most things (even a couple of Beatles albums) out of the water.

The Life Pursuit isn't that good. Not nearly. The melodies are good, but not that good. The lyrics are clever and evocative, but not particularly stirring. Murdoch's still probing the intersection of religious expression and sexual identity, but that ground's already been broken. There isn't even one of Murdoch's elaborately poetic strum-and-rhyme affairs. Those ("State That I Am In," "If You're Feeling Sinister," even "Piazza, New York Catcher") formed the backbone of previous albums. Without one, The Life Pursuit feels confused and scattershot. At least they've backed off the hokey genre-hopping of Dear Catastrophe Waitress.

It's a professional, steady-as-she-goes effort. Disappointing. -- Luke Baumgarten

Head Wound City Head Wound City FOUR STARS & r & What happens when members of the Locust, Blood Brothers, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs get together? If you said, "The greatest thing ever," you're only partly right. It's the f***ing greatest thing ever, or at least since the Coachwhips. This is the speed metal your parents feared, mixed with punk and thrash and served red, red hot. "But is the guitar playing fast?" I hear you ask. Lightning fast, I say. "But do the drums thunder?" Like Thor, baby. "But the lyrics, man. Are they scream-a-licious?" Dude, I can't understand a word. "Is it angst-ridden?" Like no other. "Does it wail?" Like a banshee. "How many songs?" Seven. "Seven tracks of musical mayhem?" You better believe it. "Gimme the 411." I can't be responsible for what happens if I tell you. "I gotta know." Seven songs, nine minutes. Don't try that at home.

If it shrieks and screams and scars and severs and serrates, it's gotta rock. Just so you know, my face has been, officially, rocked off. -- Carey Murphy
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