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Life Is A Problem

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iTunes Review

Marah’s Dave Bielanko goes without brother Serge on 2010’s Life Is A Problem. Longtime band member Christine Smith helps fill the void with some fantastic harmonies, production and writing efforts that bring things into the proper balance. Marah have always been an Americana street band with an eye on punk and a heart on Springsteen. Like Jesse Malin, who also conjures up a post-Replacements world where the battered and beaten sing to those lost on the way, Bielanko conjures up the rock ‘n’ roll spirit on tunes such as “High Water,” where his tattered voice kicks one in the guts, the title track, where things chug with an inevitability, and on “Within The Spirit Sagging,” where he and Smith do their best country harmonizing. Recorded in an old farmhouse in Pennsylvania, the album has a raw quality that keeps the songs honest and gives the instruments a beautiful rusty glow. “Together Not Together” buckles with the weight of living. “Bright Morning Stars” kicks up the tempo for a celebration that doesn’t sound quite sober. The bonus track, “Colfax Avenue,” blisters with a raucous live sound. The harmonica veers off the road and the band chases it.

Customer Reviews

Lo-fi at it's very, very best

Oh, my. Rock and roll doesn't get much better than this.

Raw, emotional, built on the words of poet - a very dark poet. I listened to this for months before reading the lyrics on their website. (He is near impossible to understand otherwise.) I loved the music, and the singing functioned just as another instrument. But Marah has always has had mind-blowming lyrics and stunning turns-of-phrases, and this album is no different (maybe more so), so it was like opening to a whole new album, understanding what he was saying.

While there are many 4-star songs on this album, (Put 'em in the Graveyard: "I laid my quill in the cold, black swill and scarlet the river flowed out") Tramp Art is so sonically intense, so full of dark, sparkling metaphors, that if, after listening to it a bunch of times, follwing the lyrics, you're not filled with in an intense, profound feeling a of grime and vivid sadness, there's no help for you.

Expect no slick productions, or polishing at all, really. It sounds like they actually played songs together, as a band, instead of hermetically sealed off from each other in plexiglass booths. It actually sounds like a rock band, and not some people who happen to play on the same songs.

A welcome change from their last album, (but still good) AOD! This is maybe their best yet, and certainly a sign of a whole new Marah, hopefully a stable one. But, since disaster seems to follow Marah around (or do they follow it around?), and suffering makes for great art, either way, whatever else they do should be pretty intense.


Formed: 1993

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Philadelphia's eclectic, rootsy rock quartet Marah consists of singer/songwriter/guitarist/banjoist David Bielanko, guitarist/vocalist/harmonica player Serge Bielanko, bassist Danny Metz, and drummer Ronnie Vance. Dave Bielanko, Metz, and Vance formed the group in 1993; brother Serge was so impressed with their sound that he wanted to join Marah, which he did in 1995. The band found an unofficial fifth member in producer/engineer Paul Smith, who was similarly taken with Marah's Replacements-meets-Springsteen...
Full Bio
Life Is A Problem, Marah
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