Thursday, November 10, 2011

Connells - Old-School Dropouts - 2001

Like 1998's Still Life, Old-School Drop Outs continues the Connells' move away from the more experimental nature of Weird Food and Devastation. This album, self-released after their long, fruitful relationship with the TVT label finally came to an end, finds the Connells building on their classic sound, a world of wistful lyrics, strong guitars, and gorgeous melodies -- a world where the childhood dreams of Boylan Heights are only a heartbeat away. Fans of the brand of guitar pop this North Carolina group has been harvesting since the Athens-to-Raleigh frenzy in the mid-'80s will find themselves in comfortably familiar territory. Mike Connell and George Huntley's guitars still have just enough bite to keep things out of saccharine territory, and Doug MacMillan's boyish timbre still sounds as sincere as it did all of those years ago. Highlights include the driving stomp of "Put Down" and the pretty sentiments and soaring guitar leads of "Gladiator Heart," while the bittersweet romanticism of "Rusted Fields" is up there with the Connells' most beautiful work. This represents the group's first effort since the departure of longtime drummer Peele Wimberley. -AMG