Following the chart success of the Maniacs' fourth album, IN MY TRIBE, BLIND MAN'S ZOO seems curiously subdued. Setting the mood from the outset, "Eat For Two" is a decidedly downbeat narrative about unplanned pregnancy. On the surface, "You Happy Puppet" is a mid-tempo adult-contemporary rock song. But, when accompanied by vocalist Natalie Merchant's expressive vocals and lyrics, it turns into a brusque indictment of middle-class complacency. "Headstrong," one of the album's standout tracks, refers to such earlier, guitar-heavy rockers as "My Mother the War."
Robert Buck's elegant guitar work is given free reign on "Dust Bowl," a poignant story of poverty and the album' s other superlative track. "Hateful Hate" sets harsh, echoing drums against the righteous indignation of Merchant's anti-manifest destiny lyric. BLIND MAN'S ZOO might not be the album that one would have expected from a popular folk-influenced band, but it makes great strides in giving the band a depth and credibility that few of their peers possess.
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