The music on Please Panic is hardly grim, but it's tense, and the absence of any release becomes exhausting. The Boatmen display a rare (in rock, anyway) understanding of how gray even good lives get, but, unlike the Silos, they neglect to mention how many shades of gray there are. And how colorful some of them can be.

And yet they remain the best band this kinder, gentler alternative rock has produced. They outrock the Silos-and the Odds, who, despite a handful of stellar songs, lack both the sincerity to carry off their sweeter impulses and the attitude to make their louder, thornier songs convincing. Because they have become adept at balancing a longing for peace with a longing to escape it, the Vulgar Boatmen sound most at home inside rock music.

FOUL BALL... v5-20-92

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