Led by Dave and Serge Bielanko, Philadelphia’s Marah is one of the more ambitious Americana outfits in recent memory. The scruffy, swaggering brothers have set themselves the task of surveying the frontier between rural myth and urban reality; remarkably, their music manages in its best moments to encompass city and country, black and white, in a way reminiscent of the Band, Bruce Springsteen, or Van Morrison at their respective peaks. Since 1998’s ragged roots debut, Let’s Cut the Crap & Hook Up Later On Tonight, they’ve upped the ante–sonically, thematically, or both–every time out. On the 2000 street epic Kids in Philly, Marah used a dilapidated eight-track recorder to build a homemade wall of sound for songs like the rumbling “Faraway You” and the jarring Vietnam-vet requiem “Round Eye Blues.” 2002’s Float Away With the Friday Night Gods, recorded in Wales by Oasis producer Owen Morris, was the Bielankos’ surprising all-out attempt to remake themselves in the Gallaghers’ image with a stylized collection of skating-rink sing-alongs and stadium anthems (the Boss makes a guest appearance on the album’s bubblegum-soul opener). Although somewhat battered by the disc’s negative critical reception–particularly in the States–and their subsequent split from their label, Artemis, the group spent the past month in a Phoenix recording studio making a fourth full-length on their own dime. Judging from the in-progress tracks I’ve heard, they’re in typically audacious form, alternating Motown-meets-T-Rex romps with gritty Scorsese-like snapshots. The group is now touring their way back to Philly with a new lineup that includes moonlighting Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster; expect the typically raucous revival-meeting atmosphere of Marah’s live show to survive the change in personnel. David Singer opens. Tuesday, February 17, 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Raymond Goodman.