Marah, fronted by brothers Serge and Dave Bielanko, is a great underdog band from Philadelphia, who reveal and reconstitute their roots on their fourth full-length album, 20,000 Streets Under the Sky. It's an album in the mode of Bruce Springsteen and the kind of rock that isn't popular right now. Their influences and the unabashed glee they take in them--and the inherent critique they fold within the songs--is a kind of a heartland/Jersey brand of what the Drive-By Truckers do with Southern rock.
On 20,000 Streets Under the Sky, named after a serial by '30s British author Patrick Hamilton, they turn their lyrics back from the introspection of their last album, the misguidedly slick Float Away With the Friday Night Gods, to observations about transvestite prostitutes, drunks, strugglers, and stragglers. It's all street level, full of blood and guts. The Bielanko's know a thing or two about survival (they've been perennial critic's bridesmaids since they began) and the handprints of those experiences are laid on their desperately living class characters and narrators like faith healers, and it works because they are the true believers.
The Brothers Bielanko give impeccably dirty pleasure that is both fun and smart. There's defiance and abandon in nearly every song on the album that reminds me of the bar band joy on Pleased to Meet Me-era Replacements; they know their rock history and where they come from, but they aren't about to be tied down when their roots can roam.