Angels of Destruction! (Yep Roc)

Marah’s seventh full-length was almost a three-album blowout after singer-guitarist David Bielanko emerged from rehab with a king-sized writing bug. But calmer heads prevailed: Angels of Destruction! was boiled down to a single disc, and out of the 11 songs, seven of them need better choruses. Marah wants to be the last gang in town, evangelizing for rock ’n’ roll and aiming to make itself the period at the end of a sentence that usually includes Southside Johnny, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan.

As talented as Bielanko is, Angels of Destruction! overreaches. Horns, keys, voices, banjos, accordions, dogs, crazy sound effects, and all manner of mysterious sonic ephemera pile up, jostling for what little space is left in the wake of the frontman’s urgent, guttersnipe poetry (replete with too many references to angels). The effect would be thrilling—if it actually led somewhere.

“Can’t Take It With You” builds into something that sounds like a funeral in New Orleans, but lacks the money shot to fix the song in your head. It’s the same with “Blue But Cool”, which is the Clash gone Philly soul, until another so-so chorus deflates everything. When Marah hits—“Angels on a Passing Train”, “Jesus in the Temple”, “Songbirdz”—we can share the refreshed Bielanko’s obvious excitement. On the other hand, when a bagpipe shows up in “Wilderness”, it’s just baffling.