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Uncivilized Love

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Album Review

Gus Black comes out of that fertile Los Angeles breeding ground that has spawn such eclectic singer/songwriters as Beck, E, and Grant Lee Phillips. Like those artists, Black enjoys dressing up the "guy-with-an-acoustic-guitar" conventions with interesting studio touches. Although this disc's production is thick with textures, it never proves distracting, and Black's strong melodic sense is allowed to shine through. He immediately grabs the listener's ear with the infectious, trip-folky opening cut, "Cadillac Tears," and follows it up with the terrific orchestral pop of "Dry Tears." His restrained but soulful crooning helps to make "When You Go" and the slinky "12345" soar. It is "City Life," however, that stands as the disc's centerpiece number. A rousing version of the tune serves as the record's most rocking effort and it is reprised, in a gentle acoustic arrangement, as the "title track" to close the album. Lyrically it combines the melancholic romanticism and social commentary that Black addresses throughout Uncivilized Love. The disc's primarily dark mood continues on the sole cover, the old Black Sabbath classic "Paranoid," reworked here into a brooding folk tune. Black does display a more hopeful and lighter side, particularly later on the album. The wonderful "Over A Great Wall" reveals glimmers of optimism, while "Despacio" is a tender look at parenthood. Black's pride over being a dad, however, gets the best of him on "Debut," a rather inconsequential (and appropriately short) piece built around his young son's giggles. Those who find David Gray a bit too sedate should find Gus Black a pleasing upgrade. Uncivilized Love — his first as Gus Black — after going by just Gus on his two earlier Almo Sounds discs — is a lovely record full of artfully crafted melodic folk-pop.

Uncivilized Love, Gus Black
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