DESERT AFTER RAIN

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I JUST NEED SOMEONE TO TELL ME HOW TALL I AM

Review: Launch

By Lyndsey Parker

"Someday I'll return/To where your stolen body burned," frontman Simon Petty promises the phantom of fallen Byrd Gram Parsons on "Badlands," the eighth track on Minibar's sophomore disc--and it's a pledge that his band has fulfilled both literally and metaphorically. Defecting from their native England to stake their claim in Southern California, Minibar--like those other U.K.-bred Americana-philes, Teenage Fanclub--have not only adopted Gram's turf as their own, but they've recreated the Death Valley/Topanga Canyon country-rock sound with such loving attention to detail, they ought to be granted U.S. citizenship on the basis of this album alone.

On Fly Below The Radar's dusky title track, Petty may humbly croon, "I play the same four chords/I play the same old riffs," but he strings those chords and riffs together with a songwriting skill that indicates he might follow in the cowboy-booted footsteps of that other Petty, Tom, while his bandmates' inspired touches--guitarist Tim Walker's sweetly sighing lap-steel, bassist Sid Jordan's plaintive harmonies and muscular rhythms--give songs like the swaggering country waltz "Breathe Easy," rodeo-circus number "Unstoppable," and Spanish-caravan road anthem "New Mexico" a certain pleasingly workmanlike bar-band quality that ought to appeal to fans of more mainstream rootsy artists like Ryan Adams, the Wallflowers, and Pete Yorn. (Minibar have in fact shared bills with all three, and have recorded for Trampoline Records, an indie label co-run by Yorn and Wallflowers keyboardist Rami Jaffee.)

While Fly Below The Radar suffers somewhat from its consistently languid, laid-back tempos (all that California heat must be making these salt-of-the-earth Brits a bit lazy), when Minibar kick it up a notch on hearty, thigh-slapping rockers like "Somebody Down Here Loves You" and the title track--songs that hint at the vigor and power that the band exhibits onstage--it's clear that these transplants, whose 2001 debut for Universal Records was criminally overlooked both here and abroad, have been flying below the radar for way too long.

From Launch.com


Last updated: Oct 01, 2006 - 04:01 PM PDT

Fly Below The Radar
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The Unstoppable EP
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