by Mark Deming
In a world where the download is rapidly replacing physical product, more than a few artists have declared the album is dead, but Drivin' n' Cryin' leader Kevn Kinney has a slightly different view -- he's bored with albums, and tired of watching his ideas get stale before he can get them into circulation. Or at least that's Kinney's explanation why his band plans to release a series of four EPs over the course of 12 months, beginning with Songs from the Laundromat in June 2012. Running through five tracks in less than 15 minutes, Songs from the Laundromat is intended to showcase the "rock" side of Drivin' n' Cryin', and it opens with "Dirty" and "Ain't Waitin' on Tomorrow," two tough, raunchy rockers that should bring a smile to anyone who still carries a torch for Fly Me Courageous, while the 32-second "Baloney" is a proto-hardcore blast that suggests the love child of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Descendents. The remaining two cuts are wild cards; while "Clean Up" features some arena-ready guitar work from Kinney and Sadler Vaden, the tone is heartfelt and the lyrics offer a melancholy view of a broken relationship, and "REM" is a puzzler, built around titles and lyrical bits from the catalog of the recently disbanded Georgia heroes and boasting a melody that could have come from Peter Buck himself. It's hard to tell if "REM" is meant to be a tribute or some sort of parody, but the other four songs all connect on one level or another, and like 2009's The Great American Bubble Factory, Songs from the Laundromat makes it clear that Drivin' n' Cryin' still have plenty to say despite spending most of the aughts under the radar. If Kinney and his bandmates can keep cranking out short-form product this good, maybe it's just as well if they don't bother with full-length LPs any more.