The superficial similarities are unmistakable: Both bands share a penchant for rich, complex harmonies, loud-soft dynamic shifts, and lyrics that bleed confessional sincerity. Driving home the point, Jimmy Eat World frontman Jim Adkins produced this album - the sophomore full-length from Reubens - and released it on his own Western Tread imprint.
But that's the superficial stuff. Beneath all that, Reubens is a remarkably quirky and inventive group with uncommon songwriting acumen. The followup to 2001's I Blame the Scenery, the oddly titled The Bull, the Balloon, and the Family finds group leaders Chris Corak and Jeff Bufano working with a new rhythm section (including the incomparably precise John O'Reilly Jr. on drums) and unleashing their offbeat sense of humor and and worldview.
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The Bull, The Balloon, and The Family
Their wit reflects itself not only in the sardonic lyrics ("America, you look good/dressed to the nines in your big city diamonds") but in the musical details: adding honky-tonk pedal steel to "Tonight We Drink" and touches of accordion, banjo, and xylophone on various tracks. Along the way, you get a true glimpse of the Valley of the Sun: less a romantized saguaro desert than a parade of strip-malls, lost tweakers and bummed-out sensitive types who would like to get out, but don't know how. •
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