Influenced by, of all things, teenage death ballads of the '50s, the Nebraskans in Mayday actually fly closer to alt-country than they may care to admit. "Booze and Pills" would have sounded at home on an '80s Mekons release, while "Continental Grift" is a dead ringer for Cracker. Bushido Karaoke offers 14 succinct narratives of rural alienation and unusual string and horn arrangements with stories about the collision of old values and modern problems. Nowhere is this more concisely stated as on "Rock and Roll Can't Save Your Life," where Mayday's main man, Ted Stevens, moans, "He loved the world, but he loved himself just a little bit more/ he loved some girls, but he loved drugs just a little bit more."

"Standing in Line at the Gates of Hell," "I'm Not Afraid to Die" and "Billy Boy Blues (Day of the Dead Blues)" unambiguously reveal Stevens' death fixation. The fact that he and the rest of the band can transform these morbid concerns into semi-upbeat, lo-fi country borders on the miraculous. The melding of folk themes, dreamy waltzes and slacker laments make Bushido Karaoke one of the more indescribable, and therefore interesting, releases of the year.

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Darryl Smyers
Contact: Darryl Smyers

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