LIQUOR GIANTS - Here

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"4 stars. A far superior follow-up to 1992's patchy You're Always Welcome, 1994's Here is the Liquor Giants' true debut. Dispensing with the pick-up crews employed on the debut, singer/songwriter Ward Dotson formed a stable backing band of guitarist Steve Dima, bassist Joe Katz, and drummer Bill McGarvey, and the change is enormous. From the comfortable agoraphobia of the opening "67 East 2nd Street" through the magnificent, Replacements-like lost love tune "Stick Around" and the gloriously bitchy "Everybody's a Genius" to the hard-rocking but drunkenly wistful closer "Happy New Year," the Liquor Giants play Dotson's uniformly excellent songs with a precisely sloppy mix of enthusiasm and chops. Dotson's production -- as usual under the playful pseudonym Moses Lawn -- is much cleaner this time around, making the squalling guitar leads and wavering harmonies that much more effective. Dotson's occasional country fixation is mostly absent from this album, other than the vaguely Floyd Cramer-like piano part on the dreamy, Wilco-esque ballad "I Don't Mind." A cover of the relatively obscure early Kinks tune "Hold My Hand" makes plain the Liquor Giants' primary influence. Not quite as phenomenal as 1998's Every Other Day at a Time, Here is nonetheless a fantastic album."- AMG