"Life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone." In the space between John Mellencamp's existentialist "Jack and Diane" and the yearning truck-commercial twang of Bob Seger's "Like A Rock" lies the broken heart of classic Midwestern rock. It's territory well-known to Jason Molina, the Ohio-born leader of Songs: Ohia. Molina does with heartland rock what Will Oldham does with Appalachian folk: He captures the sadness inherent in the genre's best moments and imbues it with a fresh sense of despair.
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Magnolia Electric Co. is Songs: Ohia's tenth album and its eight songs are the stories of an aging Jack and Diane read over a band that sounds like Neil Young at his slow-blazing height. "Farewell Transmission," the album's seven-minute opener, has Molina coupling the tale of a power failure with apocalyptic images of will-o'-the-wisps and "midnight with the dead moon in its jaw." Things are no lighter on "Just Be Simple," a near-rewrite of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Man" from a man undone by the complexities of real life. "You'll never hear me talking 'bout one day gettin' out," sings Molina. "Why put a new address on the same old loneliness?" Oh yeah, life goes on: a sobering aphorism that he and his Electric Company seem all too familiar with.