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Rhythm & Views

The Broken West

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Nothing is "universal," except, perhaps, the universe. And we're still not really sure about that. So to describe a pop record from a band out of Los Angeles as "universal," as The Broken West's press materials do, is a bit of a stretch.

Heck, even an inner-city Los Angeles kid raised on hip hop and rap wouldn't necessarily know what to do with all of this jangle. "Standard" is more like it (in the adjectival sense), or "faithful" to its pop-rock roots, or even "classic." The thesaurus offers "time-honored," and "traditional." When a certain sound or idea is so pervasive in a culture, it can seem universal, because we know what it means. The Broken West create a sound so embedded in our sense of rock 'n' roll that it seems as if it was always there. Tambourines, rhythm piano playing the same chord and lots and lots of guitars make I Can't Go On, I'll Go On one of those records that could have been released in 1967 on Reprise just as easily as 2007 on Merge.

"Down in the Valley" has such a classic-rock vibe to it that it sounds like it could actually be a cover (it's not), and the opening notes of "Shiftee," reminiscent of Elliott Smith, lead into a Kinks-like swell of reverb and harmonized vocals. "Universal" it may not be, but it's easy to see why it could seem that way.

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