seems to have been some sort of fissure within the ranks of Marah, a band
that’s racked up an impressive number of albums by trading on the shared
musical view of brothers Dave and Serge Bielanko. For reasons yet explained,
Serge no longer claims a stake in Marah’s current franchise, having been
replaced, at least for the time being, by Christine Smith, an associate of the
Bielanko brothers who was never before credited as a full fledged member of the
if to signal a departure from any previous incarnation, Dave and Christine
retreated to an old farmhouse in Pennsylvania’s Amish country where they built
a studio and collected second-hand recording equipment and an equally odd
assortment of instruments with which they stocked their arsenal. Not
surprisingly, the results reflect this patchwork set-up.
fond of parlaying insurgent sounds -they’ve frequently been described as
something akin to a hybrid of the Replacements and Bruce Springsteen -this time
around, they operate in ramshackle mode, discordant and frayed around the
edges. They find themselves relatively hemmed only on a couple of occasions –
within the soft-lit harmonies of the gorgeous “Within the Spirit Sagging,” the
hillbilly harmonies of “Bright Morning Stars” and the whisper-to-roar ascent of
the riveting title track. Yet these are the exceptions; the album as a whole
often seems cluttered and cantankerous, a hodgepodge of ideas that accommodates
a predisposition to punk along with a vintage pastiche of harp, ukulele and
squeezebox. At times, the combination sounds like drunken caterwauling,
especially on songs such as “Muskie Moon,” “Tramp Art” and the untitled hidden track
where reckless abandon easily overshadows all else. “Some people find their
places on the dark side of the road,” Beilanko asserts at one point.
On Life Is A Problem, that dimly lit road
produces some unexpected turns.
Standout Tracks: “Life Is a Problem,” “Within
the Spirit Sagging,” “Bright Morning Stars” LEE ZIMMERMAN
Is A Problem is available on cassette and
vinyl (download code included), as well as digitally.