Album: The Airborne Toxic Event, All At Once (Mercury)

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The Independent Culture

On 2009's hit debut, The Airborne Toxic Event resembled what Springsteen would have sounded like if he had grown up a goth rather than a greaser.

Their stadium-indie sound is more variegated on this follow-up, on which Mikel Jollett reflects on death and change. "We grow old all at once, and it comes like a punch in the gut," he notes on the galloping, U2-style title track, while the simple "The Graveyard Near The House" is a touching love song. In between are burly rockabilly depictions of Jollett's troubled family, stadium anthems of chugging sincerity, and less appealingly, a song about the bombing of that Afghan wedding party featuring some ghastly prog-rock keyboards. Overall, it treads an uncertain line between bombast and sensitivity.

DOWNLOAD THIS All At Once; The Graveyard Near The House; Numb