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Mojave 3

Spoon and Rafter (4AD)

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Slowdive created some of the most intoxicating dream pop of the '90s. When its members regrouped as Mojave 3 in 1996 after being dropped by Creation Records, they transformed into country-lite rockers. Though their three albums before Spoon and Rafter each proffered breezily melancholic melodies set within restrained, conventional song structures, the music couldn't help seeming like a regression to Slowdive fans. Only fools would now deny the greatness of Nick Drake, Lee Hazlewood and Bob Dylan, but we don't need to hear their seminal influences drained into pallid facsimiles thirty years after their peak. That's essentially what Mojave 3 has done. Spoon and Rafter sticks mostly to the script that fans know so well. Only with the nine-minute opener "Bluebird of Happiness" does the band wiggle out of its country duds to inject soul into the mix. If only the rest of the disc were as powerful.

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