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By The Constant Listener
I'm sure the faithful fans have been there all along, but personally I haven't thought much about Soul Asylum since Clinton's first year in office, when nobody really had a cell phone or an internet connection and a grungy Seattle sound ruled the charts. I was in eighth grade, and I listened over and over to a cassette copy of Grave Dancers Union I'd taped off my older brother's CD. I remember thinking that this was an awesome band. Now I've got a wife and some kids, a mortgage and a bald spot, and here comes Soul Asylum again - they're still around - but are they still awesome?
Well, sort of.
And that's okay. I'm not as awesome as I was in 1993 either.
Opener ( and "hit single") "Gravity" is pleasant enough but kind of sounds like a self-conscious effort at "we can still write a catchy song that rocks" and lines like "for every question there are answers to spare" just don't do much to pique my interest. "Into the Light (Breaking Horses)" is bouncy, cheerful pop and sounds like something that might play in the background of a "great day" type montage in a buddy movie, something like the sequel to Dumb & Dumber (if that ever gets made).
By the third track "The Streets," things start to heat up a bit and we get kind of an early-Springsteen flavored punk rocker. Speaking of punk rockers, there's a song called "Let's All Kill Each Other" followed, interestingly, by a jazzy, lounge lizard track "Cruel Intentions" where it sounds like Norah Jones is gonna chime in any minute as a duet partner - and if it was Dave Grohl or Ryan Adams maybe she would - but Dave Pirner, to his credit, flies solo on this one.
Whether we have a case of genre-hopping insecurity or confident eclecticism, all criticisms aside this is an entire album of listenable music that should be heard in its entirety without touching the skip button. Soul Asylum may have mellowed somewhat with age (check out the ironic album art) but they have stayed in touch with their roots at the same time. I'd like to think I've done the same thing.