Sunglare Serenades (Pitch-a-Tent)

Sunglare Serenades is the sad comedy of the drunk who sobers up only long enough to remember why he drinks. Even at its most winsome moments, when the pilsnered pop is as intoxicating as its muse and melody springs forth like a Jack (Daniel's)-in-the-box, this record still stings like a snifter of Tennessee's pride. Yeah, Doug Gillard and Tim Tobias know a thing or two about drinking. When not dodging beer cans and blackouts -- not to mention pop convention -- in Guided by Voices, these two craft beautifully sloshed pop, along with Tim's brother, Todd, on bass and Eric Vogt behind the kit. It's a rock tradition every bit as well-worn as these dudes' livers. "I can't get away from the cliché," Gillard sings on Sunglare's third cut, the excellent "I Today."

But it's not just the booze that makes rooms spin for these boys; it's also the women, and it remains to be seen which is more habit-forming -- and destructive. Either way, the drama of both is painted in broad strokes across this record. A "Slow Recovery" is all about the damnation of desire as it settles into a curled-lip, Spy Hunter-groove. "J.H.-S" is just as mean, with Gillard singing with the disaffected cool of the late Mark Sandman, while his guitar loses the composure he so duly maintains.

Mule kicks aside, Gem is just as capable of being sublime as sauced. This is made evident by the ambrosial "A Slow Crawl" and the bipolar "Nothing but the Quiet Now." Still, there can be no doubt that these guys are happiest making hips shake as violently as their hands.