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Before he was in Sugar or became the Drive-By Truckers’ producer of choice throughout their career, David Barbe led the Athens, GA trio Mercyland, who made one minor classic with 1989’s __No Feet On the Cowling_ before splintering in 1991. Following Sugar’s success, the band gathered up a batch of odds ‘n’ sods, including songs recorded during a 1990 session, for the 1994 compilation Spillage. We Never Lost a Single Game takes those 1990 songs and fashions them into their own LP. Finding a raw but tuneful midpoint between British postpunk and American rock & roll, the band never sacrifices melody for power (or vice versa), adding counterpoint vocals and lyrics that explore the human experience without falling into obvious clichés. Barbe blasts out nimble, winsome clangers like “Uncle” and “Who Hangs Behind Your Eyes,” while guitarist Andrew Donaldson adds an eighties D.C. punk flavor to cuts like “Service Economy” and “Waiting For the Garbage Can.” Updating Hüsker Dü’s power pop/punk sound without coming off as a glorified copy, Mercyland had smarts, tunes and a cool sound, and it’s a shame the songs on We Never Lost a Single Game didn’t come out while they still existed.
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