Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Music Decade List #9: Marah - Kids in Philly (2000)

I would have never heard of Kids in Philly if it wasn't for the cover art. Seeing the picture at allmusic, it intrigued me enough to find out who Marah was and what the album is all about. Kids in Philly is a sprawling, ambitious album that merges so many different rock styles that it keeps the band from sounding derivative. There's Greetings From Asbury Park era Springsteen present in 'Point Breeze.' 'Barstool Boys' is a take off of The Faces all the way down to its play on the title. 'Round Eye Blues' sounds like a mash of Phil Spector, Motown, and CCR. The album is tied to Philadelphia, from Mummer's banjo on the opener, 'Faraway You' to particular neighborhood sketches like 'Christian St.' and 'The Catfisherman'. Dave Bielanko's lyrics are consistently fabulous, painting a vivid picture of a Philadelphia that he clearly knows and loves. The Springsteen parallels are present not only in the phrasing of songs but in the kind of people Bielanko is writing about: those down on their luck, those that can only really be found in cities on the Eastern Seaboard. The album tells so many stories, with such vivid detail that it creates an astounding group of songs capturing a place at a certain point in time. It's intense regionalism may explain why it wasn't much of a success, but Kids in Philly is still the high water mark for a band that spent the rest of the decade never becoming as big as they should have been.

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