Marriage and kids can make the rock life a lot less exciting, or maybe just exciting in a way that doesn't translate well. (Some would say dull, inert, or even lame.) That's fine for those who weren't all that cool to begin with, but it can be crushing when the suburban slump claims rock stars. It's too bad for Mates Of State—husband-and-wife team Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel—that nuclear-family bliss led to a record as limp and unsatisfying as Re-Arrange Us, their fifth full-length. They haven't stopped experimenting, as smart married couples shouldn't, but that experimentation leads down duller avenues. Gardner, known for mashing a vintage organ, trades down to a piano. Hammel, meanwhile, is suddenly treating his drums like they're fragile—as if they'll break and spill yolk on him if he pounds too hard. On "Get Better," the album-opener and lead single, Gardner sings in a wispy soprano, and her husband putzes around on his kit, with an inelegant classical string arrangement beneath them. It's subtle, and a far cry from the yelping pandemonium of 2000's My Solo Project and 2003's Team Boo. It's also boring as hell. The Mates recapture a bit of brio of "The Re-Arranger" and "Help Help," but the rest of Re-Arrange Us is only useful for putting the kids to sleep.
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