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Rhythm & Views

Bob Schneider

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For years, the word on the street has been that Austin, Texas, singer-songwriter Bob Schneider is the shit, but I'd never heard his sublime music until this, his latest album.

The prolific Schneider has made eight solo albums, give or take the occasional collaboration, in addition to playing with the bands Joe Rockhead, Scabs and Ugly Americans. If this CD's 14 tracks are any indication, Schneider's talent runneth over with potent songwriting chops, endless creativity and a voracious musical appetite.

Schneider weaves together the blue-collar rock of Springsteen and Mellencamp, the verbose wordplay of Elvis Costello and the hipster swing of beat poetry. He churns out so many good songs, at apparently such a rapid pace, he seems unconcerned that one tune ("Flowerparts") might draw comparisons to the sound of Morphine, or another ("Miss Oblivion") is a Raymond Chandler-esque exploration of the same territory as the Lemonheads' "My Drug Buddy."

As good as the whole disc is, it's hard to get past the amazing triple-play of tunes ("Holding in the World," "Game Plan" and "Party at the Neighbors") that kicks it off in take-no-prisoners style. But deeper in the album, Schneider and band twist distorted garage-rock guitars into melodic shapes that recall the spiky angularity of 1980s post-punk and new wave. The Californian will take listeners back to a day when alternative rock felt as desperate as much as most of today's music feels complacent.

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