"Is this Pavement?" a friend asked as Love as Laughter's new CD played on my stereo. He's the third person to ask me that in the last 10 days, which tells you two things. 1) LAL could take the trophy in a '90s indie-rock karaoke throwdown, and 2) I've been playing this record for a lot of people lately. And they need to hear it. After a slow start with some lackluster "let's jam out on those three chords again" blues-rock numbers, the band's fifth CD finds its footing with the freakishly catchy "Dirty Lives," dashing from there to the album's other four-star hit, the raucous ode to overconsumption "Canal Street." Things get slower ("Pulsar Radio") and goofier ("Corona Extra") through the rest of the disc, but the album's good-mood momentum never flags. It's sloppy, inspiring, lovable stuff, and it'll take a tight belt and a strong dislike for Love as Laughter's kindred spirits like the Velvet Underground, the Replacements, and, yes, Pavement to keep Laughter's Fifth from charming your pants off.
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