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Just Before Dark

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Album Review

Mike Viola takes a left turn on Just Before Dark. The nominal leader of Candy Butchers, after three studio albums for RPM Records, the first two boasting major-label distribution, abandons his group moniker as well as his record label and even the recording studio for this collection of new songs. He launches his own label, Good Morning Monkey Records, with a solo live recording cut on July 19, 2005, at the Los Angeles nightclub Largo. This is a deliberately modest effort, nine songs in less than 29 minutes, with Viola accompanying himself on acoustic guitar or piano, plus a little harmonica, joined only by Inara George, who duets on "A Way to Say Goodbye." Thus, a man with a demonstrated love of the studio and of sonic gimmickry abandons all that to get up close and personal. Similarly, at least at first he also abandons his sense of irony, along with his gruff rock voice, in favor of sincerity, intimacy, and a focus on his upper vocal range that lends him sweetness and sensitivity. The kinder, gentler Mike Viola lasts for over half the album, but by the time of the seventh track, "Clusterf**k," he is introducing some of his usual wit and wordplay. Just Before Dark may be his Joni Mitchell move, but he is unable to stay "Blue" all the way through.


Genre: Alternative

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

Power pop singer/guitarist Mike Viola was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, and had self-released a solo album before teaming with schoolmate Todd Foulsham in the short-lived '80s band Snap! Viola and Foulsham then relocated to New York City and formed the Candy Butchers; Viola also played with local pop bands including Ivy and They Might Be Giants' John Flansburgh's side project Mono Puff. With Ivy's Adam Schlesinger, he co-wrote and sang the Grammy-winning title song to Tom Hanks' 1996...
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Just Before Dark, Mike Viola
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