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East River Pipe

Our critics' picks in new releases

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Yeah, I realize this isn't a brand-spankin' new record, but The Gasoline Age is such a perfectly realized concept record in its own dreamily evocative way that I just had to spout about it.

On his fourth full-length offering, ERP's sole member, New Yorker-turned Jersey-ite F. M. Cornog, beds down with his urban muse and a Tascam 388 mini-studio to create a paean to the American fascination with and worship of the automobile. Cornog's stripped-down musical approach, twangy, bent guitar lines and use of keyboards evokes Stephin Merritt's solo projects, while his sometimes sweet, often poignant songs-vignettes--about shiny pimpmobiles, cybercars, even hearses--let you glimpse into one man's Northern soul.

From the laid-back twang of "Hell Is An Open Door" ("C'mon everybody get in") to the strumming pop of "Wholesale Lies," The Gasoline Age takes the listener on a headlight-illumined tour through a neon world of false glitz and upbeat losers. "All You Little Suckers" is so smooth it could be Harry Nillson's, while "Party Drive" is a wistful, midpaced ode to getting wasted behind the wheel ("no cops in sight"). "Atlantic City" employs country lyric cliches, car doors opening, background noise and casino sounds to evoke one sucker's eternal faith in the American dream, even at a decaying seaside gambling strip. This is a beautiful, wistful take on an automobile-obsessed culture.

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