Lovers Who Wander was the last studio album from the Del-Lords and one of their best, but it was also the record that strayed farthest from the sound that made their name. Scott Kempner wrote most of the songs on Lovers Who Wander while his marriage was slowly falling apart, and the material reflects a period of dashed hopes and dreams gone sour, both for him and the band after years of hard work with little reward. As a consequence, Lovers Who Wander is an uncharacteristically downbeat and contemplative set from a band more than capable of blowing the roof off the joint. But if the Del-Lords don't kick up much dust on Lovers Who Wander, the songs rank with the best of Kempner's career, and the lean, plainspoken honesty of "I Need Love," "Learn to Let Go," and "Rockabye" is well served by the band, who show they can turn down the tempo and the volume and still connect like a Louisville Slugger on a fastball. (And "A Lifetime of Trouble" and "Hellbent" confirm these guys hadn't completely left their loud stuff in mothballs.) For a change, the band had a sympathetic producer in Thom Panunzio, who dialed back the studio trickery and gave this material a more natural and organic sound, and if the results aren't as epochal as Based on a True Story, this is the first Del-Lords album that sounds like a band playing together in a room. And though the Del-Lords' cover of the Dictators' "Stay with Me" doesn't rock as hard as the original, Kempner's impassioned vocal fills it with an emotional power that's every bit as strong. Lovers Who Wander might disappoint fans who want to hear one of the great rock bands of the '80s crank it up, but it's as impassioned and affecting as anything this band ever put on tape, and it was a brave experiment that could have taken the group in some interesting new directions if they hadn't called it quits within a year of its release. ~ Mark Deming
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