The bedrock songcraft and open-hearted sentiment of late-’50s and early-’60s pop-rock has become hip again for indie bands, though most leaven it with modern production and an arm’s-length ironic distance. Wisconsin band The Midwest Beat does no such thing on its second full-length album, Gone Not Lost, which falls together as naturally as an afternoon of hanging out over beers and Buddy Holly records. In the style of early Marshall Crenshaw and The La’s, The Midwest Beat strums jangly guitars and sings sweet-yet-raucous harmonies with a remarkable lack of guile and affectation, seemingly unaware that most rock bands don’t really sound like this anymore. The album highlight, “When She Came To Town,” shines as bright as the display of an old jukebox, sighing along wondrously on a chiming guitar riff and blissful “la la la” backing vocals. Denim-clad middle-American garage bands have specialized in this sort of throwback rock since the rise of The Replacements—who get a nod on the Paul Westerberg-like “Obliterated”—but The Midwest Beat writes better songs than most. (They can also slip comfortably into a folkier vein, like on the heart-tugging “Crawlin’ Back.”) At 15 songs, Gone Not Lost would benefit from the brevity of the classics it’s drawing from. But if the worst that can be said about The Midwest Beat is that it’s too generous, that only speaks to its easy charm.
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