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[Off The Record]
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Love Tractor
THE SKY AT NIGHT
(Razor and Tie)

Itís fitting in a way that the Steely Dan of the mid-í80s Southern-pop revival have released their first album in 12 years right after Becker and Fagin got a Grammy for their comeback. The Dan comparison, moreover, is apt. Love Tractor were a great live act, as their unlikely 1987 cover of the Gap Bandís " Party Train " suggested. But at their best these precious college-radio darlings combined the herky-jerk of Pylon and the graceful arpeggios of early R.E.M. with a kind of icy, meticulous virtuosity: they were a bar band totally comfortable layering overdubs in a sterile recording studio.

Nothingís changed on The Sky at Night. One listen to the delicate, folkie, guitar lattice work and vocal harmonies on " US Desert " or the trebly bliss of " Palace of Illusion " (trimmed with killer, circa 1986 keyboard bursts) and youíll swear the í90s never happened. Then again, on the mostly instrumental " Birthday of Time, " a film soundtrack waiting for a film, Love Tractor prove themselves honest-to-God precursors of spacy, ambient techno. But forget about " relevance " and the thinness of some of the songwriting here. For any one-time high-school kid from suburban nowhere who imagined Athens as a dreamy, jangle-pop paradise, The Sky at Night will be as evocative as Proustís madeleine.

BY JEFF OUSBORNE

Issue Date: April 19 - 25, 2001





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