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Victory Shorts (Bonus Track Version)

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Album Review

Absentee cut way back on the country-rock on their second album, Victory Shorts. What they don't scale back is the mordant wit of singer Dan Michaelson's lyrics, the band's raucous approach, the size and strength of the hooks, and — best of all — Michaelson's amazing voice. He has one of the deeper voices you're likely to hear outside of doo wop or opera; he sounds sort of like a steadier Johnny Cash or a way steadier Calvin Johnson. Mostly, though, he just sounds pretty great as he staggers through the ballads like a heartsick, slightly drunken fool and romps through the rockers with an amazingly light touch. Hearing him navigate the humorously choppy waters of "Bitchstealer" is alone worth the price of purchase; the depths of sadness he plumbs on slow tracks like "We Smash Plates" and "Love Has Had Its Way" is enough to take your breath away. The album itself is split between these two extremes. On the one hand are the uptempo rockers like "Bitchstealer," "Pips," and "Boy, Did She Teach You Nothing?," which are very '90s-influenced and very Pavementy (if Pavement were verse-chorus types), and feature some very pleasantly squalling guitars courtesy of Michaelson and Babak Ganjei. They're the kind of songs you'll find yourself singing along to instantly and for weeks after first hearing them. The other hand holds quiet, restrained ballads that will tear your heart out with wit and menace. Michaelson doesn't go for everyday pathos; he twists the knife lyrically at every opportunity and the band always pays attention to its sound by never sticking to clichéd ballad-style arrangements. Melinda Bronstein's keyboards and innocent backing vocals come in very handy on the ballads, providing some degree of light to Michaelson's prevailing darkness. Victory Shorts is an assured, confident, and quite often brilliant album by a band that is clearly influenced by the past but never falls prey to easy nostalgia. It's a triumph of wit, emotion, and scarred beauty that is sure to rank with the best albums of 2008, or any year that treasures great songs, witty and dark lyrics, and rousing performances of both.


Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

Based in London, the indie rock quintet Absentee are comprised of Dan Michaelson (vocals, guitar), Melinda Bronstein (vocals, keyboards, melodica, glockenspiel), Babak Ganjei (guitar, lap steel), Laurie Earle (bass), and Jon Chandler (drums). The group signed to the Memphis Industries label and released its debut EP, Donkey Stock, in 2005. They followed up with the full-length album Schmotime, which was produced by James Ford, in 2006. When not recording or touring with Absentee, both Michaelson...
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Victory Shorts (Bonus Track Version), Absentee
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