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BEST ALBUM OF THE PAST 12 MONTHS Minneapolis 2003 - Soft Rock by Lifter Puller

"First there's violence, then there's silence." When Craig Finn uttered those words on "La Quereria" in 2000, the same year Lifter Puller broke up, he could have been singing his own band's epitaph. After playing and recording together in Minneapolis since 1994, feeding the after-hours carnage of slobbery hookups, in-crowd affectations, and bad times with good drugs through their sputtering amps, the former Minneapolis indie rockers pulled the plug, with Finn moving to the city he once chidingly referred to as "Kool NYC." Still, the four years in between were great ones, and they're captured in all of their slack-motherfucker fervency on Soft Rock (Self-Starter), a double-CD collection of singles, demos, compilation tracks, and chunks from previously released albums. All the recognizable Lifter Puller elements are there: tales of Katrina and the Eye-Patch Guy, as performed by the art-school Archers of Loaf. But somehow, every recording sounds manic and nearly live, with Finn spitting his stream-of-consciousness monologues as if he were the dream-logic polemicist from Waking Life. (His endless tirades jolt the punk-rock kick below, a herky-jerky dance move that keeps slipping into a Benzedrine limp.) And then the songs snap in half, often ending abruptly and unexpectedly, much like the band itself. But after every silence, the violence returns--which might explain why Lifter Puller is coming back home for two reunion gigs at the Triple Rock Social Club on June 6 and 7. Forget Kool NYC: For two nostalgia-filled summer nights, we'll be Kool MPLS.

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