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Album Review

Cleveland-based singer/songwriter/guitarist Mike Farley's band (consisting of lead guitarist Jeff Nagel, bassist Jeff Beam, and drummer Joe Rohan) earns its billing on this album by proving a tight, cohesive unit that sounds like it's done quite a lot of gigging. The arrangements emphasize the guitars, with the rhythm section driving the songs, all supporting Farley's sturdy tenor, which is joined by background vocals from all three of his bandmates. The songs themselves are catchy tunes with strong choruses, which somewhat belie the consistent subject matter of the lyrics: romantic ambivalence. Farley (or at least, the narrator of his songs) is a hard man to cheer up, much less get close to. "Even Lifesavers got holes in the middle," he notes in the leadoff song, a statement of purpose called "Can't Be Your Man." And so it goes in a series of reflections on the push-and-pull of love. "She comes with a conscience," he sings in the chorus of "Comes with a Conscience," but he means his conscience, not hers, as he worries over the guilt he may feel over a one-night stand. Still, commitment doesn't seem to be a possibility for him. "Anything you want," he begins "Fight No More," "except for maybe me." Still, the driving music and Farley's earnest vocals speak to the strength of his feelings; he's passionate, even if conflicted. And this is the kind of mainstream pop/rock that has sold in the multi-millions for such artists as Hootie & the Blowfish and Counting Crows. Farley is not as distinctive a singer as the former band's Darius Rucker or as idiosyncratic as the latter's Adam Duritz. But it's easy to imagine his band catching on in a similar way, which probably would only give him more romantic turmoil to sing about.

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