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Weird War 

Illuminated by the Light (Drag City)

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With its hung-over vocals, hallucinatory echo effects, and saucy attitude, Weird War may seem like just another retro band. In truth, it's a group of playwrights.

Each track on Illuminated sets up a neat little world, complete with characters, a plot line, and a set built from evocative musical cues. A girl leaves her old man for a biker gang (whose motors rev in the driveway as she writes her "Dear John" letter) on "Motorcycle Mongoloid." "See About Me" takes us into the suburban home of a man and his mail-order bride. On "Mental Poisoning," the band packs up its trippiest guitars and sojourns in 1960s Morocco, with a layover in China to pick up some kung fu gongs. The band takes a big old bite out of the bass line from "Play That Funky Music, White Boy" in order to set the stage for "Girls Like That," a conversation between a guy and a girl about the opposite sex's questionable taste in partners. We've heard most of the plots before, but Weird War gives such a rousing performance that a little redundancy can be forgiven.

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