The Devil You Know" (New Door Records)
Todd Snider goes electric on "The Devil You Know," which is too bad. He's no Judas, but he's no rocker either, and the high-decibel, low-fi approach on his latest set only obscures his terrific songwriting.
As usual, Snider serves up an array of gems featuring intriguing characters. There's the drywaller scolding his boss, and the pool hustler getting reacquainted with an old pal who's a prostitute. There's the nervous crooks planning a robbery, and — best of all — the former frat boy waxing nostalgic about his days carousing with a friend listeners will recognize by the final verse. Snider also sings with wit and poignance about love, God and Dylan.
These tunes must be great on stage, where Snider is at his best. But the disc sounds like a demo, probably because he recorded it in every room of a Nashville home studio, kitchen included. The casual approach works fine when he's strumming an acoustic guitar, but when Snider and his band plug in, the bar-room boogie merely gets in the way of the words.
Snider sings about bad decisions, and he's entitled to one himself now and then. He's still the best beer-stoked bohemian thirtysomething Tennessee troubadour going. (Steve Wine)
With all the publicity Pete Doherty has gotten over the last two years — mostly for his addictions, occasionally for his music — some may not have noticed that the other talented half of disbanded post-punk revivalists The Libertines has got a new band of his own.
On "Waterloo to Anywhere," singer and lead guitarist Carl Barat rises from the ashes of The Libs' tumultuous breakup with his new outfit, Dirty Pretty Things.
Only time will tell if D.P.T. will outshine Doherty's thus-far uneven Babyshambles, but right now things are looking pretty good for Barat and his bandmates — bassist Didz Hammond, guitarist Anthony Rossomando and ex-Libertines drummer Gary Powell.
Already causing a buzz in their native Britain, Dirty Pretty Things are everything that made The Libertines so good — great hooks and an unpolished, almost manic sound to go along with a healthy dose of romanticism.
"Deadwood," which opens the disc with an energetic riff and the snappy chorus "Bang, Bang You're Dead," may be as catchy as anything The Libs' ever recorded, and "Doctors & Dealers" sticks it to the contradictions of drug use ("I can call someone to bring the fight on, the doctors and the dealers. Someone to shed some light on, miracle cures and soul stealers").
"The Gentry Cove" is tinted with Clash-style ragga-punk, while "If You Love a Woman" and "Wondering" slow things down just enough to show off a slightly softer side to the band.
The band's retro style and punk influences will draw comparisons to groups such as Franz Ferdinand and The Futureheads, but after Barat and Doherty helped spearhead the resurgence of the post-punk sound, "Waterloo to Anywhere" definitely deserves a listen. (John Kosik)