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It would be easy to say that Thomas Anderson is a novelist who just happens to make records instead of writing books. His boundless imagination and thirst for good stories beyond boy-meets-girl and this-is-why-I-killed-them-all fills his albums with songs that are structurally informed by the narrative flow, rather than melody or harmony. But that doesn’t mean they’re not musical. On Ladies and Germs, his twelfth album and follow-up to last year’s Analog Summer, the Oklahoman troubadour spins webs involving meth dealers with acid-dropping girlfriends (“Suzette and the Lucky Pierre”), the inside story of a storm’s terrible effect in an oil town (“Bad Storm in the Oil Basin”), encounters with post-apocalypse dates (“Girls of the Apocalypse”), and the difficulty of collecting on Adolf Hitler’s estate (“Paula Hitler Wolff” – a true story, by the way). But these aren’t dry recitations better suited to the page – Anderson’s deep understanding of musical traditions, including folk, power pop and post-Velvet Underground rock, mean that every one of them is better suited sung than read aloud. His blend of acoustic and electric guitar textures, a continuing exploration of groove (particularly on “Girls of the Apocalypse”) and his status as one of the best rhymers in the biz also serve as reminders that he’s a songwriter at heart. Ladies and Germs stays the course of Anderson’s musical vision, and it’s just as good an entry point into a fascinating, intelligent, imaginative rock universe as anything he’s done.
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