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Van Christian: Party of One 

After their initial nihilistic shock reaches its logical dead end, aging punks start defining themselves as who they are, not by what they hate. Van Christian, already a couple of generations removed from Green on Red and Naked Prey (neither of which's attitude was especially negative to begin with), comes back with Party of One, a record that bears the mark of the usual grown-up punk suspects, i.e. Lou Reed and Neil Young, but is surprisingly edgy and alive.

Sure, the singer-songwriter confessionals are here—with lines like "I lived a lie, you looked like the truth," from "Push Comes to Shove," how could they not be? But a good percentage of Party of One is loud rock 'n' roll, and these songs provide the album's most pleasing moments. "One Hit of Love" is positively raunchy (sonically, anyway) and "Built for Sin" is a Springsteen-esque myth of the highway that leads to freedom.

"All Resolve" and its thematic cousin "Mercy" deal with the lying lover and the damage done. Savage indictments of the ex and the narrator, respectively, both are affecting and effective in their navel- and skyward-gazing. "Map of France" hearkens back to Christian's more textural sounds explored in Friends of Dean Martinez, and "If You Are Gonna Be Dumb You Better Be Tough" is much better than its clumsy title would suggest. The closing cover of Alice Cooper's "Desperado" neatly ties up the theme of the album: Christian may be a party of one, but it's really only romantic to the party next door peeping in his window.

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