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Grand Mal

Love Is the Best Con in Town

(New York Night Train; US: 1 Aug 2006; UK: Available as import)

As the pianos and keyboards saturating its cover art suggests, Love Is the Best Con in Town, Grand Mal’s fourth LP, is less “rock” than the band’s previous records.  Trading in the glam and garage for more mid-tempo piano-based frolics and pocket-sized orchestrations, singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Bill Whitten leads a supporting cast of 20-plus musicians through bared-knuckled drowsers like “Cold As the Stars” and “Not a Penny to My Name”.  Despite its long list of contributing credits, Love Is the Best Con maintains an intimate sound, emphasizing the sober calculation of Whitten’s songs.  Still, there’s always room to rock: Whitten kicks out some mangy Stones-struck riffage on “Count Me In!”, asking, “Do you wanna go for broke tonight? / Do you wanna rock ‘n’ roll? / Well, c’mon!”  C’mon, indeed, but prepare for less bruises on this particular jaunt.

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Zeth Lundy has been writing for PopMatters since 2004. He is the author of Songs in the Key of Life (Continuum, 2007), and has contributed to the Boston Phoenix, Metro Boston, and The Oxford American. He lives in Boston.


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