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Still

BoDeans

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Album Review

The BoDeans' most memorable work — their excellent debut album, 1986's Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams, and 1993's Go Slow Down, which spawned the hit single "Closer to Free" — has been recorded with T Bone Burnett in the producer's chair, and after opting to record their eighth studio album for their own He and He label to maintain greater control of their work, they paired up with Burnett again for the sessions that spawned Still. The scrappy enthusiasm that fueled the BoDeans' best music has given way to a more measured and mature sound in the 21st century, but Sam Llanas and Kurt Neuman are still capable of rocking a bit when they feel like it (cue up "Lucille" for a taste), and the emotional ardor that's always made itself known in their songwriting is as clear and present as ever. "Breathe"'s story of a father trying to save his daughter's life is powerfully affecting stuff, the spectral "Pretty Ghost" speaks volumes about erotic obsession in a few words, and "Arms" conjures an indelible snapshot of the joy and hurt of first love. And with Burnett at the controls, Still sounds full but uncluttered; Llanas and Neuman's harmonies and guitar work are crisp and dynamic, and the music has a welcome sense of detail throughout. But even though Still has a lot of good things in it, the excellence of some of the bits doesn't quite cohere into a fully satisfying whole; none of these tracks stands out as a misstep, but a number fail to stand out on their own, sounding like variations on themes the BoDeans have covered thoroughly in the past, and ultimately this is an album where the whole isn't as much as the sum of the parts. Still is well worth a listen for BoDeans fans, but it falls a few notches short of what these guys can do when they're hitting their stride.

Biography

Formed: 1984 in Waukesha, WI

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Formed in 1984 by high-school friends Sammy Llanas and Kurt Neumann, the BoDeans mixed Midwestern roots rock with elements of adult contemporary pop, fashioning a sound that earned critical acclaim during the '80s and commercial recognition during the following decade. Llanas and Neumann fronted the group by sharing vocal and guitar duties, while bassist Bob Griffin and drummer Guy Hoffman populated the rhythm section. Although based in Waukesha, Wisconsin, the BoDeans began building an audience...
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Still, BoDeans
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