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If You Didn't Laugh You'd Cry

4.2 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Over the past decade we wrote and recorded two records on broken gear, played hundreds of shows touring in a van, made another self-produced record, one big-name-producer record, and had so many rotating band members we get dizzy just thinking about it. So, going into album number five, we decided to try something a bit different, something we've been talking about doing for quite a while recording the band live in the studio. Swift and raw. And so we did. If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry is a folk-punk collection of their most personal, introspective songs to date, all recorded in one or two takes in a very short amount of time (by Marah standards, at least!). Yep Roc. 2005.

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Marah play things loose and easy on their self-produced fifth album, fusing folk-rock sincerity and garage-band recklessness with first-take immediacy. Since moving from Philadelphia to Brooklyn, they've put some musical distance between themselves and those frequent comparisons with a lower-rent (or at least younger and hungrier) Bruce Springsteen, though the harmonica that laces "Walt Whitman Bridge" conjures some familiar echoes. "City of Dreams" finds them channeling their inner Simon and Garfunkel, while the opening "The Closer" (go figure) sounds like Graham Parker fronting a neo-skiffle band. With "Out of Tune," songwriting brothers Dave and Serge Bielanko issue what amounts to a musical credo: "So what if we're out of tune with the rest of the world?" The go-for-the-throat vitality of the tracks makes the If You Didn't Laugh You'd Cry sound less produced than unleashed. --Don McLeese
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 18, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Yep Roc Records
  • ASIN: B000B5KRS4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #283,065 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brad Fleetwood on November 2, 2005
Format: Audio CD
I saw these guys live last summer and was blown away. I'd already heard "Kids in Philly" and "20,000 Streets," but their live show really pulled me in. I immediately located "Lets Cut the Crap," and anxiously awaited their new disc. "If you couldn't laugh, you'd cry" was worth the wait. If this disc is not on alot of best of lists and Xmas lists this year, well, we're screwed. I mean, look out over the rock and roll wasteland where your success is measured in units and where Rolling Stone magazine is a painted whore of a rag. Sadly, almost no one makes records that matter anymore, (remember the Clash)and it seems that if they do, no one listens. The airwaves are replete with bands that look like they came out of a gap commercials and play the same three chords with studied intensity, albeit while actually looking and sounding emotionally dead. Sadly, America is entirely taken up with this "30-second commercial" version of rock and roll. There aren't many who seem to be able to really connect the rock and roll dots from Jimmie Rogers to Hank Williams, Muddy Waters to the Rolling Stones, Blind Willie McTell to Bob Dylan. There are too many bands that try to be derivative of something, but they don't have what every great rock and roll band has -- honesty, sincerity, hope and desparation -- all at the same time. Except Marah. If you're looking for answers, at least this band asks the right questions. They've laid it on the line here; their hearts are exposed and their souls are stripped naked. Listen to the opening riff of "Demon of White Sadness" and if you don't feel the pull, you've got no soul left to touch. If the muse doesn't touch you and make you smile while listening to "Sooner or Later," then you've been neutered.Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
Dylan went back down Highway 61, Marah walked back to an alley in Point Breeze, Philadelphia. It is an apt analogy for their entire fifth album If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry. Two white boys still searching for what the hell their beloved city means to them, and vice versa. Trying to find that invisible intersection where Mummers banjos meet Philly soul. Feeling along the Wall of Sound that Spector built, looking for any slight crevice or crack wide enough to let in all those hill songs just across the Mason Dixon line. And of course, there's that echo that started somewheres up in Asbury Park, comin' down the Jersey Shore to tie it all together.

If their quintessential second album, Kids in Philly, is an album so steeped in place that it almost drowns in the river it so frequently references, then IYDLYC is a stone skipped from bank to bank. It stays ever near the source of its material, Philadelphia, and everything that city connotes, but it also leaps up and down pointing towards the other locales that have been instrumental in shaping Marah, both the music and the band. In "The Closer", they make it clear right away they are not remaking KIP, nor are they shedding tears for halcyon days gone by as the narrator does in "East", the opener to 20,000 Streets Under the Sky (Album #4). No, in this song the singer is rambling down a Brooklyn street, drunk on beers, comraderie, and the possibility of seeing, "That girl." This is a song so un-self-conscious, that only a band perfectly comfortable in their own skin could make. This sentiment can honestly be applied to most of the record.
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By JPN on November 12, 2005
Format: Audio CD
I have long been an admirer of Marah's excellent Kids in Philly CD. Now, after repeated listenings, I'm giving this one the nod as this band's best. Focused, reckless, serious & fun all at the same time.
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Format: Audio CD
Albums this good don't come along every day - or even every year.

We are seeing the evolution of a band here. "Kids in Philly" was a great album for Marah in the same way that "Born to Run" was a great album for Springsteen. It was a burst of instinctive inspiration, everything young guys had dreamt of throwing into a rock and roll record. Springsteen then worked his record to death. I suspect Marah did not do the same.

With this new record, Marah have definitely not done the thing to death. They recorded these tracks in short sessions, 3 takes per song max, 9 days recording they say. What we get from that burst of confidence is a flowing, beautifully paced collection of great songs, with not a hint of filler.

The arrangements refer clearly back to the wonderful clattering clutter of "Kids in Philly", but the tonal separation is better, the placement of the clanging and rattling rhythmn items much more carefully considered, yet still with an instinctive rightness.

Individually, some of these songs are dazzling, and some of the lyrics highly reminiscent of Dylan or Springsteen in their pomp.

"The Dishwasher's Dream" is a wonderful flowing narrative of a dream, pure Zimmerman, but with Marah's personality stamped across it.

The bonus track, "This Time" is propelled by thunderous guitars, probably the closest to pure 6-string power rock that Marah have come.

"Poor People" carries a witty and quite savage lyric along beside a rattling good tune.

I can't really find much to fault with this album. You do need to listen to it a couple of times to get the best from it, mostly because Marah's arrangements are still dense and multi-layered, but my God it's worth the effort.
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