Graham Parker 

Songs of No Consequence (Bloodshot)

Apparently, Graham Parker was only teasing with last year's Your Country. Yes, it was his best record in years, but it wasn't half as good as this one. Parker never lost his snarl, but he's regained his penchant for sharp, focused hooks and lost whatever tendencies he had to fall back on a handful of repetitious melodic ideas. Now, with tight and perfect backing from long-time collaborators the Figgs, Parker has given us his best release since 1991's Struck By Lightning.

This time, there's no pretense of taking a stab at alternative country. Instead, Parker and the Figgs launch into a rippling riff-laden rock song, "Vanity Press," which attacks the complacency and laziness of the mass media. Things don't let up the rest of the way, with only one loping reggae number and two exquisite ballads breaking up the barrage of rockers. "Bad Chardonnay," "Dislocated Life," "Ambivalent" and even a throwaway gem like "Did Everybody Just Get Old" could stand with the best material Parker has ever written. The decision to abandon his long-time passion for playing his own lead guitar and let Figg Mike Gent take over those duties has freed Parker to concentrate on what he does best: arranging material to be as catchy and as biting as possible. Songs of No Consequence is a spectacular return to form by one of the world's greatest rock performers.

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