Split the Difference (Virgin)

Truth in advertising and then some: Gomez manages to, yeah, split the difference between Blur and Oasis. And, oh, Travis, which isn't a complaint but a compliment from someone who long dismissed these Brits as wanh-wanh-wankers whose blooze-pop had all the staying power of pot smoke. Bottleneck slide and whiskey-bottle vocals do not a Creedence or Stones make, no matter how many Junior Kimbrough songs you cover or how hard you try to sound like a bad moon rising over Main Street.

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Split the Differencefinds the band hiring outside help (Tchad Blake, educated in a one-Froom school) and expanding the sound without collapsing the franchise. It's memorable, in other words, and catchy as a summer cold. The fans keep crying this disc isn't as "eclectic" or "diverse" as its predecessors, but that only means Blake's managed to ground the sound into something that holds its shape through a baker's dozen of tracks that move and groove into something cohesively rocking, even during the slow-dance tracks. Keep this handy when you want to listen to The Invisible Band, Think Tank and Be Here Nowat the same time.

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