Only the vaguest of geographical qualifications was required for association with the grunge/Seattle movement, and sometimes only the slightest of musical resemblances too. Soul Asylum were from Minneapolis, and their breakout hit, 1992’s mournful Runaway Train, drew its fashionably downbeat air from Dave Pirner’s road-weary voice. It was enough.
This tenth album, their first for six years, highlights how different Soul Asylum actually were. Their witty, sometimes acerbic alt-rock is more power-pop than stadium grunge (perhaps the album title hints at this overdue reclamation of their roots).
In Tommy Stinson they boast a current member of Guns N’ Roses in their line-up (another signal of how times have changed), and they sound sharp and lean on the absurdly catchy opener Gravity and the rasping pop of The Streets. Let’s All Kill Each Other juxtaposes a biting lyric with the sweetest of tunes, while Cruel Intentions is a lounge-room piano ballad warbled Bowie-style (nice timing there).
Too smart to overdo the goof-factor, this is intelligent, rewarding rock music for the discerning listener. It says as much about the people who buy it as the men who have stuck their necks out and recorded it.