The Search may be the perfect title for the latest album from Uncle Tupelo offshoot Son Volt, conveying the yearning, seeking quality that underlies the album's indie rock-flavored mix and lyrical bent. In fact, it is long past time to bury the "alt-country" banner that Jay Farrar, Jeff Tweedy, and Tupelo once waved so proudly. This is indie rock in the vein of the Goo Goo Dolls, Paul Westerberg, and Soul Asylum, with no exceptions or apologies. Songs like "Underground Dream," "Circadian Rhythm," and "Methamphetamine" are the best examples of this dynamic, each with disheartening lyrics and radio-ready melodies. There are some even harder edges, most beautifully done in the riff-laden social critique "Automatic Society" and the Neil Young-inspired "Action." There is even a soul rocker the upbeat, Memphis-horn-infused "The Picture." The album's masterpiece, however, may be Farrar's lilting duet with Shannon McNally, "Highway and Cigarettes," an evocative paean to the traveling lifestyle of musicians. To be certain, there is a definite country tinge to many of the songs on The Search, but Farrar and company manage to make music that is full, sweeping, and provocative.
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