Monday, July 20, 2009

The Cass County Uglies - s/t

In 29 minutes, The Cass County Uglies doubled my interest in North Dakota. What I once only knew for giving me Chuck Klosterman can now boast a strong self-titled alt-country record in the vein of Lucero, Slobberbone, and, to a lesser extent, The Replacements circa Hootenanny. At 10 tracks, The Cass County Uglies is lean and bouncy, hook-laden, and certainly filler-free.

“Ten Dollars Worth of Wine” announces the record perfectly: Small town troubles, friendship, tough times, and drankin’ abound. It’s like a Springsteen song minus the melodramatic Magic Rat, with passing fears of welfare and hell flitting about. Simply put, if you like country, punk, and, uh, punktry, The Cass County Uglies are the band for you.

For those not sold, however, consider the album’s remaining nine songs. “Norman County” deals in more local flavor, attempting to bridge class divides and make new friends (“They’re quiet, hardworking, and cruel / We’re trouble but we’re not evil”) while “Disappear” remembers old flames (“Last I heard of her, she moved to Gainesville / But she could be anywhere as far as anyone’s concerned”). “After Party” and album-ender “Dancing in This Town” slow the beat down briefly, allowing Dan Nygard’s introspective, weary lyrics more room to hit. The best line of the record, “The problem with dancing in this town / There’s always somebody you’ve danced with before,” comes from the latter. In between the two weep-in-your-beer numbers are more rawking tracks.

Sure, there some downsides to Cass County. The clean production sometimes conflicts with the band’s grittiness, but it’s by no means a glossy record. And the songs, while fun, aren’t the most groundbreaking. Still, though, it’s hard to fault the Uglies for sounding like other good bands, given that they do it so well. And while “Move Silently” briefly, weirdly recalls U2’s “I Will Follow,” there’s little plagiarism at play here. If you like Lucero and Broadway Calls and somehow don’t like The Cass County Uglies, congrats, you’re a wiener.

No comments: