Sam Roberts Band – Collider
Rounder Records
-out today
3 / 5

Sam Roberts certainly can find a groove. The opener to the band’s fourth studio full-length hits a great stride, with a loose, loping guitar and the right amount of bounce to the rhythmic vocals. In all, “The Last Crusade” displays the kind of understated musicianship from the band as a whole that shows a steady head/hand at work. Collider, from this vantage point, would be the perfect pop/jam band album to cruise to (“Let It In”: eat that, Phish), except that it’s missing a couple things. First, the vocals: Roberts voice, despite a great sense of rhythm and clarity, lacks a compelling element. See Robert Plant, Joe Strummer, John Fogerty et al. Okay, so those comparisons are a bit unfair, but the point is still valid: Roberts voice is too much backdrop to the solid instrumentation of his band. The second complaint is that the excitement seems to deflate about halfway through the album.”Streets of Heaven (Promises, Promises)” drags a boring 1-2, 1-2 percussion and the on-the-beat guitar makes this track swing as well as Frankenstein’s monster. Past this point, the lightness and joy so well established through the early tracks gives in to blander, straightforward pop/rock. It’s just a slight, but noticeable shift in the band, perhaps taking a back seat to Roberts halfway through who, unfortunately, is not enough to carry the show. A great, light, understated start, but it doesn’t quite carry through far enough for a recommendation.

Ed.’s note: Phish be damned, anyway. Oh-verated.

Listen to “The Last Crusade.”

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