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by Carey Murphy and Luke Baumgarten & r & The Darkness & lt;a href= & quot; & amp;offerid=78941 & amp;type=3 & amp;subid=0 & amp;tmpid=1826 & amp; & quot; & One Way Ticket to Hell . . . and Back & lt;/a & *** & r & I just don't get how few people appreciate these guys. Sure, they're goofy. Sure, they don't take themselves too seriously. Sure, it may sound just like a whole lotta self-congratulating ironic posturing. But I don't care. More bands need to take their cue from Justin Hawkins & amp; Co. by remembering that they are in a business where 30-year-olds make music for 13-year-olds. Keeping it dumb is the only game in town.

Queen producer Roy Thomas keeps the '70s-era arena bombast factor way high. Like 2003's Permission to Land, Ticket fuses some wacked-out guitar riffs with just enough falsetto to make every listener remember that music, usually, is some pretty silly stuff. But by throwing in the occasional pan flute (is that Zamfir coming out of obscurity?), the Darkness start shedding light, while dumping outrageousness, on their classic-rock influences.

Maybe this will help: I think Permission to Land is the most perfect album to accompany housecleaning. Ticket, however, is all about the yard work. -- Carey Murphy

Okkervil River & lt;a href= & quot; & amp;offerid=78941 & amp;type=3 & amp;subid=0 & amp;tmpid=1826 & amp; & quot; & Black Sheep Boy Appendix & lt;/a & **** & r & Black Sheep Boy is Okkervil River's ode to Tim Hardin, taking a piece of the folk legend's eponymous song and expanding it into a full album. Though it's a concept record, and employs a screamy, twangy earnestness I can only classify as Emolk, it's one of the most hauntingly gorgeous albums of our young century. Black Sheep Boy Appendix, then, is doubly a concept album. Building off the conceit of the first and elaborating further on specific, reoccurring tropes, Appendix plays like a ebullient reiteration. "This is what I wanted to say the first time," he intimates here. "I hope it got through."

It did, beautifully, and it still does. Appendix contains only seven songs, so it has a hard time recreating the sense of narrative arc of its sibling. Both "Black Sheep Boy #4" and "Another Radio Song," though, are so fully fleshed out as to suggest entire albums in themselves.

Appendix stands perfectly well by itself; taken in tandem with its progenitor, it's damn near perfect. -- Luke Baumgarten
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