Damien Jurado and Gathered in Song

With Neil Young taking a shot at soul-man sophistication on his new one, someone has to make use of his godfather-of-grunge claim until he gets back to rocking.

On his fourth album, Seattleite Damien Jurado, who made a sort of latter-day Harvest with his plaintive 1999 disc Rehearsals for Departure, makes a compelling bid for the job, wadding his incisive observations on small-town desperation into a fireball of frayed guitar rock as full-blooded as Rust Never Sleeps' tumultuous electric side. Jurado's better at amplifying his angst than Rehearsals' hushed folk-pop suggested:

Opener "Paperwings" revs up I Break Chairs with a slashing guitar riff and drummer Andy Myers' bottomless snare reports, Jurado singing through the din like a biker into the wind; "Birdcage" convincingly lifts the riff from Sonic Youth's "Teenage Riot"; "Big Deal" and "The Way You Look" almost bounce with a vintage Tom Petty spring, an antique synth even winding around the scruffy power chords. Gathered in Song, Jurado's band, proves itself a competent Crazy Horse to Jurado's Young, guitarist Eric Fisher dropping in the occasional glockenspiel solo and Myers' nuanced drumming steering the songs clear of the lumbering pace many grungers picked out of Young's work, in much the same way that new Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche keeps the songs on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot unexpectedly nimble.

Jurado's as nuanced in his characterizations, too, sketching a world in a few lines: "There's a place where Jean and I go/To escape this dull existence," he sings on "Like Titanic." "And we go dancing and we set fires/And we tell secrets and tell them lies." I Break Chairs' title may connote its sonic fortification, but After the Gold Rush better captures Jurado's delicate handling of disillusionment.


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