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Man-Made (Merge)

Back in the heady months between "Teenage Riot" and "Teen Spirit," these four Scotsmen earned their name by opening up the druggy romance of '80s noise merchants like the Dream Syndicate and Dinosaur Jr., replacing snooty self-involvement with the excitement of amateurs trying to overreach their abilities. On their first Matador releases, melodies burst through the tumult as triumphant as a Little League left-fielder holding aloft a pop fly.

But now they're not playing the deep outfield, they're just out to pasture. Man-Made returns the aging lads to a hot indie label, hooks them up with a respected producer (John McEntire, of Tortoise fame) -- and is so clean, pretty, and uneventful that it's hard to know whether "It's All in My Mind" is a genuine keeper or just memorable because it's the album opener. Even so, compare this disc's rehash of Byrds harmonies and Velvet Underground grooves to, say, 1990's God Knows It's True EP, and you'll find that it isn't so much a betrayal as a reminder that rock history is littered with guitar bands whose modest ideas seemed majestic in their moment -- and that moments pass before people do.

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