November 29, 2007

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State Radio, Year of the Crow
Ruff Shod/Nettwerk Records, Nov. 6
OK. You’re a broke old man, and your dying wife’s comatose in the hospital on life support, so you somehow score a janitor job at the hospital so you can sort-of pay for her care and, bonus, sneak in once in a while to hold her hand. You swear she responds once in a while, and it’s all you live for. So then your manager decides to fire you, so you beg for your horrible job, trying to get one human to cut another human just a strand of slack for once, for the luvva God.

Thus the lyrical synopsis of “Mr. Larkin,” a Bryan Adams-sounding joint from State Radio’s first album, Us Against the Crown. While prepping for the band’s new record I’d forgotten how that fricking song had left me a blubbering dunce behind the wheel on some stupid road someplace in my stupid car in this stupid world.

Although he remains civic-minded, Massachusetts-based rocker/activist Chad Urmston made his band pack Uzis this trip. Throughout Year of the Crow, the Police-like reggae of Crown is omnipresent but mumbling directions from the back seat, the wheel in the grip of some demented, had-it-up-to-here Pixies dude ready to break everything because nothing can be fixed. “Hey Guantanamo! Hey Geronimo!” Urmston’s crew bellows drunkenly in the opener (“Guantanamo”) before proceeding to chuck a ska-driven Molotov cocktail at the courthouse that’s run by the bastards who still — still — keep the West Memphis Three in jail (“Unfortunates”). Sober alt-folk transports “The Story of Benjamin Darling,” but it’s surrounded by angry savages beating tom-toms in the distance, as would befit any tale of a slave-master who learns his lesson too late in life. Last chance to see the band is Dec. 6 at Worcester Polytechnic Institute before they hat out to Australia for a month. A+ Eric W. Saeger