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Kids In Philly

music reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: Kids In Philly

Artist: Marah
Genre: Rock
Release Date: March 2000

Review by LarryG
3 stars out of 4

Kids In Philly is the kind of fun, gritty rock record they don't make much anymore. Marah's music has been compared to early Springsteen but a better comparison is with Springsteen's contemporaries, late 70's bar bands like Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes and Graham Parker & The Rumour. David Bielanko's voice doesn't have much range but its roughness and his wired, fast talking persona are good for Marah's energetic, honest, ungimmicky music. Kids In Philly does a good job mixing in country instruments but it's mostly good time rock and roll.

Working within the form of basic rock and roll, the band adds different sounds to keep the songs interesting and upbeat. Faraway You is a likable raveup with banjo, vibes and harmonica. David Bielanko's free flow account of the bleak Philly sights he sees from his bus window stays buoyant even as he sees his girl "sittin' on a beach, entangled in a kiss." Point Breeze showcases the band's influences. It starts with a Springsteen style line: "headlight cars do battle down the boulevard." The vocal and good guitar riff remind me of Parker's Over The Border and the "Sha-Na-Na"s and party mood could be from a good Southside Johnny song. Christian St. paints a colorful picture of a working class neighborhood. Horns and Springsteen style "come on"s keep things fun. The slightly slower It's Only Money, Tyrone has a good, edgy sound as it tells a brutal murderer that the evidence of his brutal act, like all improperly disposed waste, is bound to come back to him. The Catfisherman is good, no nonsense rock. Barstool Boys has a Small Faces feel with low key bluegrass instruments. The songs on Kids In Philly are often like Lou Reed's small scale, no nonsense street songs from his New York CD. The History Of Where Someone Has Been Killed has the loose but tough sound of Dirty Blvd. and Busload Of Faith.

The writing on Kids In Philly can be surprisingly ambitious. It works because the music is so winning and the lyrics stay on a detailed, small scale even when they're about big things. Roundeye Blues' country music is appropriately low key, with a good Be My Baby percussion snap, on a song about a G.I. in Vietnam who survives the terror of war with help from memories of music from back home. My Heart Is The Bums On The Street has a good bluesy guitar line like Elvis Costello's Pads, Paws and Claws. The song's light mood keeps the metaphors, describing the pain of Bielanko's heart since she left him, from getting too heavy. Kids In Philly doesn't sound a false note, right through its last song, the quiet acoustic guitar ballad This Town. The story of a guy "paralyzed of luck 'til you were out shakin' a cup", like many of the CD's songs, relates a small, dark, real sounding story.

Marah have been championed by Steve Earle. The songs, written by David and his guitar player brother Serge Bielanko, don't quite have the depth and range of Earle's. But they do a good job of investing simple street tales with good, vivid detail. And the music on Kids In Philly is an enjoyable mix of countryish roots music and unpretentious straight ahead rock.



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