Latest Release: "Pale Afternoon"

 The latest release  from Jim  Duffy is "Pale Afternoon," a  collection of 11  moody and bouncy  instrumental pop tunes. Buy CDs here.

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Pale Afternoon

Jim Duffy

This is moody and bouncy instrumental music, each track aiming at a specific feeling, Jim Duffy leading a small group from his 1960s Wurlitzer electric piano, drawing upon myriad influences with little fuss and a lot of fervor.

Jim Duffy, a Brooklyn-based composer and keyboardist, announces the release of "Pale Afternoon," his third full-length collection of moody and bouncy instrumental music.

The eleven tracks on "Pale Afternoon" each aim for a specific feeling. Duffy leads a small group from his 1960s Wurlitzer electric piano. Dennis Diken of the world- famous Smithereens is on drums, Paul Page, who tours the world with Ian Hunter, plays bass, and Lance Doss, who has toured and recorded with John Cale, plays guitar and lap steel.

"We made this record very quickly, over a long period of time," Duffy says. “We had minimal fuss and lot of fervor.”

The opening track, "Boulevard Six," careens forward in a minor-key groove in a 6/4 beat. From there, the tracks take sharp turns in mood and tempo. “Tenerife” has an aerodynamic, West Coast feel. On “Reverse Image,” Kevin Kendrick’s vibraphone provides icicle-like counter-melodies. “Sputare Il Rospo” hits hard at a quick pace, then Claire Daly’s baritone sax sends it over the top. After a few of these three-minute trips, you'll be ready to expect anything.

"Pale Afternoon" was recorded and mixed by Greg Duffin and Mario Viele at Cowboy Technical Services, in an analog format, recorded and mixed to tape. The tracks were mastered by Grammy-winning engineer Scott Hull. Warm and punchy is what it is.

Jim Duffy has long lurked behind various music scenes in New York, playing with some of the top performers in the rock, pop, jazz, ethnic and avant-garde worlds, including Freddie "Boom Boom" Cannon, Wanda Jackson, the Fleshtones, the Bottle Rockets, Sour Jazz, the Damnwells, Reid Paley, Will Rigby, Speedball Baby and the eight-piece Persian-style psychedelic funk band Mitra Sumara, among many others. He co-founded the ‘80s Boston band Rods and Cones, and in the ‘90s he played with the New York band Martin's Folly.

For "Pale Afternoon," he draws upon his myriad influences and inspirations and his address book of fellow musicians. When we twisted his arm, he agreed, "OK, this is the best batch yet."

Jim Duffy is one of New York’s most irrepressibly entertaining and individualistic keyboardists. He had a longtime gig with Americana rockers Martin’s Folly; these days he plays organ in the wildly psychedelic Mitra Sumara, who specialize in covers of classic/obscure Iranian art-funk hits from the 60s and 70s. But he’s also a distinguished songwriter in his own right. His third and latest instrumental album, ominously titled Pale Afternoon, is streaming at Spotify (there are also a bunch of tracks at soundcloud and youtube for those of you who can’t stop multitasking long enough to jump on that fader and ride it down to zero when the ads pop up).

The album opens with Boulevard Six, a dead ringer for a late 60s/early 70s Herbie Hancock movie theme in rambunctious 6/4 time, guitarist Lance Doss contributing a blue-flame solo. The way Duffy’s oscillating Wurlitzer electric piano riff fades into the terse resonance of trombonist Sam Kulik and baritone saxophonist Claire Daly is just insanely cool, like something Brian Jones would have overdubbed on Their Satanic Majesties Request.

Figurine is sort of a variation on the previous tune, a bittersweetly twinkling late-night stroll lowlit by Kevin Kendrick’s vibraphone. If Bryan & the Aardvarks had been a rock band, they would have sounded like this. Once again, Doss fires off a solo, this time channeling late 60s Mike Bloomfield.

The album’s title track turns out to be a slow, summery groove until Doss drifts into sunbaked, stately art-rock, pushing the song toward 70s Procol Harum territory. Duffy’s Fillmore Theme turns out to be a breezy, swinging number, part Bacharach bossa, part Free Design psych-pop, Duffy multitracking his rippling, upper-register Wurly along with lush, fluid organ.

Keep Keeping On is a soul waltz as Booker T might have done one circa 1967, or Quincy Jones might have on the In the Heat of the Night soundtrack, Paul Page’s bass bubbling over the washes of drummer Dennis Diken’s cymbals. The elegant Wurly clusters in Reverse Image are so close to the melody of Figurine that it begs a momentary switch between the two tracks, to see if Duffy is pulling something clever like doing that song backwards. As it turns out, no – they’re just both incredibly catchy, this one close to a goodnatured Big Lazy highway panorama without the exit into David Lynch territory.

Mission Creep is the album’s best and darkest track, Doss’ simmering lapsteel bringing to mind the Friends of Dean Martinez‘s Bill Elm doing something from Dark Side of the Moon. Then with Tenerife, the band return to a sunny Bacharachian backbeat spiced with Doss’ wry soul-jazz lines.

Duffy follows the gently allusive ballad We’ll Never Know (nice theremin impersonation there, dude) with Spurare Il Rospo (The Spitting Toad), a briskly tropical motorik theme that’s a dead ringer for Los Crema Paraiso. The album winds up with Evening Birds, an iconoclastic spin on a hallowed, funereal Floyd tune. Crank this at your next party and get the entire room dancing – ok, everything but that last song.

Fun and inspiring fact: Duffy is one of the few musicians to shift from being a first-rate bassist to an A-list keyboardist. And then put out one of the ten best albums of 2016, more or less.

  • New York Music Daily, September 2016

Though Duffy traffics in a kind of melodic soul jazz – led primarily by his nimble and expressive way around a Wurlitzer EP200 – he has a pop sensibility that makes his music quite appealing to plain-old-rock and pop fans. His work on the electric piano is breathtakingly melodic: it’s both technically impressive and just plain catchy. Subtle use of horns and electric guitar lends the affair a kind of updated Booker T & the MGs vibe, and the unfailingly tasteful drums of The Smithereens‘ Dennis Diken are icing on the cake. Instrumental music rarely gets more accessible than this.

  • Bill Kopp, Musoscribe July 2016

It’s funny how things go in cycles; what was once cool is soon not, but it can become vogue once again in time without explanation. Jim Duffy, with his third full-length album, takes yet another stab at the instrumental pop genre - something which appears to baffle some.

It’s a not a well known genre, nor could you say it's much loved. On the surface it sounds like elevator music, the kind of thing you’d find tootling away in the background at a bright and busy shopping centre in the 80s, or if you’re looking for a description which doesn’t make you run a mile, the kind of music which accompanies to more recent outings in the Mario Kart video game.

There is almost an art to this kind of music, the composition takes a lot more thought, resting on the change-up in melodies and conveyance of an emotion. It’s a good job Jim Duffy is no slouch then, hot to trot on his Wurlitzer electric piano he jaunts through an album of pop infused with many other genres.

From the exotic-pop feeling ‘Boulevard Six’ and ‘Tenerife’ to the laid-back lounge music feel of title track ‘Pale Afternoon’, electric piano takes centre stage, something many will find dull and grating. But with long, bending solos, and trumpets there is enough to make you fall for these songs.

Duffy is at his finest in the eerie ‘Mission Creep’ where his keys seem to descend down in the cellar/dungeon/cave, guided by topsy turvy candlelight. There isn’t enough of this flavour however, and it’s the sole criticism you could level at the album. Vulfpeck have funked this genre up with their efforts, imbuing pop-instrumentals with vim and vigour, while Duffy seems content to keep things more templated and evenly paced.

Even Vulfpeck failed to really break big with their music though, and that’s with the help of vocalists on their first full album. This might not mean much to Jim Duffy however, who seems dedicated to this most niche of crafts. He does what he does well enough that if you’re looking for some accompaniment music while you potter around the house, or while you hop in the shower, this might be just the thing you’ve been searching for.

  • Nathan Fidler SoundBlab Feb. 1, 2016
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Mood Lit

Jim Duffy

Moody and bouncy instrumental pop tunes featuring a 1960s Wurlitzer electronic piano and a swinging combo, recorded in warm analog sound.

With "Mood Lit," his second full-length release of moody and bouncy instrumental pop tunes, Jim Duffy moves closer to the front of the stage but remains off-center.

Duffy leads a small combo on piano and an early-1960s Wurlitzer electronic piano. Reference points include AM radio pop music, detective dramas, lachrymose partings at the Pan Am terminal, twilight falling on kitchenettes, lounge acts in their third set.

Duffy pays homage along the way, but he has paid off some musical debts and is doing more original research. He’s going for more specific feelings. "Stevie Says” may produce sensations of an old Movie of the Week on color TV, but this is not a retro affair. "Mood Lit" is sincere to a fault.

The sound is leaner than on Duffy’s first full-length release, "Side One," and the combo may be swinging a little harder. On drums is Dennis Diken of the world-renowned Smithereens. On bass guitar is Paul Page, who records and tours with Ian Hunter. On guitars and lap steel is Lance Doss, who has recorded and toured with John Cale.

The combo convened in a basement studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Sound engineer Greg Duffin (no relation) recorded the group on 16-track tape, to get that tube-warm analog sound. Duffin is often seen working the mixing desk on Regina Spektor’s world tours.

"We recorded it very quickly, over a long period of time," Duffy explains, in his typically obtuse manner.

Duffy and the combo stretch out within the three-minute pop structure, allowing room for the unexpected. They perform with minimal fuss and a lot of fervor, starting with a head-turning version of Mose Allison's "Look Here," then moving through eleven original tunes. On "Early Germ," they work the area where twang meets soul. On "Free Formation," the combo demonstrates that they came up through the rock basements. “The Night Clerk,” is an eerie audio portrait. Then, on “Our Next Guest,” the combo suddenly appears in matching gaudy blazers. What does he think he’s up to?

"If you don't notice it's instrumental, so much the better," Duffy says.

Kevin Kendrick of A Big Yes and a Small No adds an almost-too-intimate vibraphone part to “If You Insist.” On "Memento Mori," Mac Gollehon’s compact, punchy brass arrangement puts the tune over the goal line. Claire Daly’s baritone sax on “Balladeer” supplies a bright moment. On the title tune, "Mood Lit," Duffy makes an obligatory and "almost involutary," as he describes it, nod to Burt Bacharach.

Jim Duffy has performed or recorded with the rock-and-roll pioneers Wanda Jackson and Freddie “Boom Boom” Cannon, as well as the Bottle Rockets, Reid Paley, Tandy, the Fleshtones, Speedball Baby, Bone-Box, the Damnwells and many others. Duffy played keyboards in the band Martin’s Folly and sometimes still does. Once upon a time, he played bass guitar in the Boston band Rods and Cones.

The Jim Duffy Combo, the core group of Duffy, Diken, Page and Doss, plus the occasional special guest, can sometimes be heard at the Lakeside Lounge on Avenue B in Manhattan and at other venues in the New York area.

Is "Mood Lit" good "make-out" music? Dim the lights and see for yourself.

-- Derek Shackwell-Smith St. Cleve Chronicle

Pop-jazz. Jazz-pop. The labels are mere shorthand for a sort of music that's tough to describe. The terms can often be applied in a pejorative sense, used to describe (and dismiss) disposable music. But that's not at all what we have here. "Mood Lit," the second album from Brooklyn pianist Jim Duffy, is a delight from start to finish.

The dozen tracks serve up sprightly melodies that swing. Duffy is aided and abetted by a small combo featuring The Smithereens‘ Dennis Diken on the trap kit, plus Paul Page on bass and Lance Doss on guitars (the latter two are also members of Ian Hunter's band). The lineup is the same as on Duffy's first release, 2005's "Side One." On "Mood Lit," Duffy drives strong, snappy compositions via acoustic piano or a Wurlitzer 200A.

There are some production flourishes -- such as a vibes, horns and glockenspiel -- but "Mood Lit" is an incredibly organic disc. The songs sound as if they're being played right in your living room. The melodies are strong enough that vocals aren't missed; on the contrary, the arrangements would suffer if anything else were added. Note-perfect arrangements throughout make "Mood Lit" that unique disc that's perfect as a backdrop to cocktails and entertaining and highly engaging enough to reward careful listening. Musical touchstones lean in a jazz-for-all-the-people direction: hints of Brubeck, Bacharach and Guaraldi are there, and there's even a subtle nod to the Ides of March's "Vehicle," a 1970 Billboard pop hit. Another tune kicks off with an ambience that calls to mind Stevie Wonder's "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" but heads immediately in another (equally pleasing) direction.

Sometimes instrumental albums suffer from repetition or a dearth of ideas. "Mood Lit" finishes as strong as it starts, and doesn't sag in the middle either. Pointing out a highlight would only do disservice to the other eleven tracks. Highly recommended.

-- Bill Kopp

It's rare that I'll review an instrumental album. But this one hit my sweet spot -- and with Dennis Diken (Smithereens) on the drums, I figured it was worth looking into. Jim Duffy gathered a small jazz combo in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to put this lounge pop confection together. Included are Paul Page (bass) and Lance Doss (guitars) from Ian Hunter's band. If you enjoy Burt Bacharach or The Vince Guaraldi Trio, you will really love this album. The keyboards are where Jim shines on every track here. You'll hear a bit of a Stevie Wonder styled melody on the tribute "Stevie Says." Occasionally it takes a detour -- "Memento Mori" is one of those songs where the horns take you on a journey, and you don't miss vocals one bit here. Every song tends to flow in a different direction, so unlike other jazz pop albums I've heard it doesn't get stylistically repetitive. Superior production and mixing work here balances out the players, so no one overshadows the other and the combo plays like a well-oiled (organic) machine. Overall a very enjoyable album, and a big cut above your average instrumentals heard in Starbucks. So put down the coffee and enjoy a cocktail with Jim Duffy.

-- Aaron Kupferberg

Duffy composes utterly charming pieces for the piano and organ. Duffy's pieces are instantly attractive, but the writing is sophisticated enough to attract exacting ears. Another fine album from a guy who knows how to make good music.

-- Aiding and Abetting, November 2009

That bit about "twilight falling on kitchenettes" is totally true. Check out "Balladeer" for a super smooth, but very mobile number.

-- WLUR FM, Lexington, Va.

Soundtrack music for home furnishing shopping, detective dramas, and under-70 mph car chases. piano/keyboard-led concept pop. if nothing else, do your voice breaks with any of these tracks!

-- Sam Silver, WESU FM, Middletown, Conn.

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Side One

Jim Duffy

Instrumental tunes that mix heavenly pop, moody themes and deep, rocking grooves.

Jim Duffy, a Brooklyn-based keyboardist, presents a set of sparkling, original instrumental tunes. Duffy has been behind the scenes for a while now, playing in the band Martin's Folly and backing up the likes of Wanda Jackson, Freddie "Boom Boom" Cannon, Eric Ambel, the Damnwells, the Bottle Rockets and many others. Now he steps out front with refreshing compositions played by some of New York's hardest-rocking musicians.

"Side One" is Duffy's first solo album. All the sounds were recorded in vintage analog stereo, for a warm texture that harkens back to the halcyon days of Burt Bacharach. The opening track, "Knowing What You Want," reaches for those heights with string passages by members of the Flux String Quartet, culminating in a soaring flugelhorn melody from Mac Gollehon.

The concept was to scan the past 50 years of American pop music and do an original take on it, using musicians who came up through the rock basements. Dennis Diken of the Smithereens plays drums on every track. Bassist Paul Page and Guitarist Lance Doss, both from John Cale's band, fill out the basic lineup. Jim Duffy leads with piano or an early-'60s Wurlitzer electric piano.

"Get Up for Ray," Duffy's take on a Ray Charles-type groove, rocks from side to side with a raucous saxophone arrangement. "Broken Field" harkens back to the dramatic soundtracks of NFL highlight films. If you listen closely to the creepy "Gentle Panic," you'll hear a musical saw. In the moody "Your White Raincoat," if you start flashing back to "Midnight Cowboy," well, who's to blame you? In the closing track, the flag-waving "Morning Rays," the band revs up a Booker T groove, then Gollehon lets it rip with a flying trumpet solo that brings it home in style.

The overall effect is bracing and unpredictable. Jim Duffy's "Side One" is suitable for parties of all sizes.

-- Derek Shackwell-Smith St. Cleve Chronicle

I love this totally instrumental disc. Go to CD Baby and get it right away. Jim Duffy is channeling Bacharach, early Chicago and Peanuts, as in the cartoon. There isn't a loop to be found, but it is loaded with strings, horns, piano, wurlitzer, guitars, lap steel and even a glockenspiel. It is buzzing from the heart and soul of real live musicians, and some notable ones to boot: Dennis Diken of the Smithereens on drums, Paul Page on bass and Lance Doss on guitar/lap steel, (both from John Cale's band), provide a fantastic backbone of a rhythm section for Duffy's well orchestrated arrangements. Jim Duffy handles the piano/Wurlitzer himself. These guys must have had a blast laying these tracks down. I wish I had been in the room.

I also love the way it's recorded. Sometimes when I listen to cds, my ears get fatigued by the pure digital-ness of the recording. "Side One" was recorded and mixed by Greg Duffin at Cowboy Technical Services of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, run by studio stars Eric Ambel and Tim Hatfield on mostly vintage gear. No fatigue can possibly come from these old school recordings.

This is one whimsical, joyous and refreshing cd. Although it is reminiscent of yesteryear, it is so different from much of what we hear these days. I'll call it the new old school. I hope it's on the way back and gets big.

-- Ann Klein, The Muse's Muse

Is anyone even making music like this anymore? Brooklyn keyboardist Jim Duffy seems to exist in a bygone era, at a time when the Brill Building still stands, when TV theme songs were AM radio hits, when Bacharach piano melodies were enough to sell records.

There's naïve joy in this collection of 11 original instrumentals as Duffy plays propulsive, groove-based piano underscored with his own catchy chord work on a Wurlitzer electric piano; he rounds out the sound with a studio full of instruments - lap steel, strings, brass and musical saw (on "Gentle Panic") - played by musicians happy to have the chance to show off their old-fashioned chops. Ray Charles is an influence ("Get Up for Ray"), and he and Booker T bang heads on the best cut, the last track, a six-and-a-half-minute jam called "Morning Rays," with everybody digging in and spreading the mirth.

-- Buzz McClain, Harp Magazine

Jim Duffy on piano and electric piano, backed up by a basic guitar-bass-drums band and all sorts of friends. Duffy does paint his songs differently, depending on the extras (horns, strings, etc.) - or maybe he calls in his pals to flesh out his songs the way he wants them to sound.

Either way, Duffy is essentially an R&B piano player, with touches of boogie-woogie and other styles seamlessly tossed in. His songs simply roll out with consummate ease, immediately charming the ear and inducing the mind to relax. Take a load off. Enjoy yourself.

And as these songs stroll through classic soul, the blues, rock, jazz and more, the one connecting factor is Duffy's stylish feel for the keyboard. He plays the electric piano on most of these songs, and he manages to exude real emotion and feeling on an instrument that can make that quite difficult.

Just a lovely feel to this album. It cycles through plenty of moods, but the prevailing wind is that of a warm spring breeze. Effervescent, with the promise of better days to come. And the ideas to back up that optimism. Truly a joy.

-- Aiding and Abetting,

Keyboardist Jim Duffy tickles the ivories for the band Martin's Folly; he's also played with Wanda Jackson, the Bottle Rockets, Eric Ambel and others. "Side One," however, is no roots rock supersession, but a lively collection of instrumentals.

Duffy entices a plethora of appealing melodies from his pianos, arranged in a variety of moods. "The Crawler" sounds like the backing track of a long-lost Al Green session at Hi, while "Mother of Pearl" acknowledges country piano pioneer Floyd Cramer. Add poetic lyrics to "Your White Raincoat" and you'd think you stumbled onto a Jimmy Webb outtake; crank up "Morning Rays" and everybody in a 20-foot-radius will twist and frug the day away. "Knowing What You Want" and "A.M. Fun City" would do Burt Bacharach proud.

Duffy's sharply tasteful playing and understated support team (including Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken and members of John Cale's band) keep the music tightly held to the melodies-no self-indulgent soloing here. As a resume of what Duffy can do, "Side One" is impressive. As an album in and of itself, it's a winner.

-- Michael Toland, High Bias

There isn't a lot of non-jazz piano-based instrumental music out there -- or at least there hasn't been for a few decades. It should be no surprise, then, that a contemporary piano-based instrumental CD like "Side One" would sound like a time capsule from '60s London. Whether Jim Duffy considers his songs to be retro blasts or contemporary pieces is a moot point, really; either way you take them, it's more fun than you've had since you watched Snoopy dance to "Linus and Lucy."

Duffy splits his time pretty evenly between a classic piano and an electric Wurlizter. The Wurly tunes achieve a buzzy lounge bliss reminiscent of Miles Davis's R&B outings. "Get Up for Ray" doesn't have an ounce of the psychedelia from Bitches' Brew, but the unmistakable tones from the organ and horns make it tough not to make the comparisons. "The Crawler" is another sharp Wurlitzer song, this one sounding uncannily like the music from that "How a Bill Becomes a Law" cartoon from your grade school. The trumpet arrangements alone are worth the list price.

The bigger achievement for Duffy was producing jams on the piano. After all, doesn't everyone sound like a pimp when playing an electric organ? The piano, however, has been square for most of the music buying public's life and probably still is, outside of Side One. Regardless of this perception, Duffy and his talented band dig deep into songs like "Knowing What You Want", a song that's two parts Burt Bacharach and one part Herb Alpert -- which to you may not sound like a recipe for hipster casserole, but you'd be wrong. There's an earnestness to the playing, each percussive chord from the piano sounding soulless and bare without the aid of reverb or distortion, that is impossible to fake; no amount of posturing can be a substitute for this.

It might be impossible to listen to the finger-snapping bliss of "A.M. Fun City" without at least cracking a smile. Unlike jazz, these sounds are all straight up and down, without improv or any sense of the player's personality. It's all trumpet, piano, hi-hat and tight pants in here. Despite that rigidity -- or perhaps because of it -- this song has the ability to break down the most cynical listener.

-- Philip Stone, Splendid Magazine

I can imagine this album catching on with the hipsters. Chill-out's over, everybody does jazz, and the R&B grooves just aren't cutting it for the parties any more. Only problem is, there's nothing to play after this. Jim Duffy's debut album, "Side One," sounds unlike anything around today.

It's roughly old AM radio, except that stuff like this music wasn't on then either; on this album nostalgia becomes incarnate in an aural reflection of a nonexistent past. Forget Burt Bacharach, the closest (and probably most frequently made) comparison you'll find is to Vince Guaraldi (of "Linus and Lucy" fame). It's not jazz, it's not pop, but it's somewhere in that region. The 11 tracks Duffy presents are fun and mostly sunny; that's about it, and it's probably enough.

-- Justin Cober-Lake, PopMatters

After years backing music legends like Wanda Jackson, Freddie Cannon, Eric Ambel and others, Brooklyn-based keyboardist Jim Duffy released his own CD "Side One" in 2004. Backed by some truly great players including Dennis Diken (from Smithereens on drums), Lance Doss (guitarist from John Cale's band) and the strings of the Flux String Quartet, Duffy channels the spirits of Burt Bacharach and late, great piano man Vince Guaraldi on a short but sweet CD that would make a great soundtrack to a "Peanuts" cartoon.

The 11-track instrumental CD makes a splendid argument for the wonders of the 88-key piano, a noble, vintage instrument that's just about been forgotten in this age of high-tech wizardry. From Ray Charles-style grooves to '60s retro and soundtrack sounds, "Side One" is a joy from start to finish.

-- Music Web Express 3000

I don't normally review instrumental piano music, but this was a pretty fun CD from Jim Duffy. Entitled Side One (ah, yes, harken back to those times when there were two sides to albums), it is a mishmash of mostly energetic instrumental tunes that borrow from the last 50 years of American pop. Indeed, that was the stated concept, and Duffy sure does it well.

Again, I don't know much about the genre, but it's hard to not like the "Peanuts"-influenced tracks like "Get Up For Ray" and "For Those Who Are Leaving". Duffy has wisely assembled a barnload of competent "real" musicians (including luminaries like Dennis Diken of the Smithereens and Paul Page and Lance Doss, who play with John Cale) that really fill out the tracks well.

For me, I was rather partial to the "slower" tracks like the somewhat creepy "Gentle Panic" that is bathed in tingling Wurlitzer and hissing jazzy drums. The mellow '50s "slow dance" tune "Sob Story" was sort of fun as well.

This ain't no Ben Folds Five, and perhaps all for the better, because I found myself sort of relaxing in the absence of vocals. Sharp contrast to the punk albums we get, but a sort of nice change for today.


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