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The follow-up to the post-breakup catharsis that is Kin, the first album by Michael Rank‘s latest outfit Stag, In the Weeds finds the former Snatches of Pink leader settling into life as an Americana musician. With prominent mandolin, banjo, fiddle and pedal steel coloring the mostly acoustic arrangements, In the Weeds mostly eschews the remnants of SOP’s proto-punk glitter rock that snuck onto Kin – more Steve Earle than Johnny Thunders, you might say. But while the music is more refined and genre-specific here, one thing that this LP has in common with its predecessor is its unease. Whether it’s a matter of leftover material or lingering discontent, Rank still aims arrows at former lovers, whether he’s pining (“Rifle Days,” “Confederates”) or pissed off (“All the Rope”). He also still writes the kind of minor-chord melodies that made SOP so distinctive, as the murder ballad “The River Cross” and the yearning anthem “Topo” demonstrate. Rank lets a little light through the clouds, occasionally – he celebrates “the child we made together” in the otherwise bitter “‘Round My Head” and offers tentative fidelity in “The Surrender.” But Rank’s always been a champion brooder, and furrowing his brow to a chorus of acoustic guitars instead of distorting amplifiers simply makes his visions more effective.
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