Back in 2000, just as Marah's second album, Kids in Philly
, birthed a cult, band mainstays Dave and Serge Bielanko got sick of the salty, E-Street Jr. image they'd made for themselves. With the new If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry
, the brothers seem to be learning to love it again. Closer to the rowdy spirit and ragged sonics of Kids in Philly
than to the big pop album and rootsy redux that followed (both of whose titles are too long to print), this most consistent of Marah albums no longer revels in urban decay, but feels its pain. The guitar-heavy "The Hustle" ripples with the tension of living hand-to-mouth, while the hushed "Walt Whitman Bridge" suggests, with a consoling lilt, that when life takes you for granted, you can always commiserate with a lonely piece of infrastructure that's got the same problem.