Rock fans know the band Wilco for its blend of country and alternative rock. For a side project, two of Wilco's members teamed up with a pal from the band Sonic Youth to form a third group; it is called Loose Fur. Music critic John Brady has been listening.

Mr. JOHN BRADY (Music critic): One thing is certain about Jeff Tweedy, Glenn Kotche, and Jim O'Rourke of the band Loose Fur, they don't shy away from the big themes. Indeed, on their new album Born Again in the USA, they tackle nothing less than two of the most elemental forces in human life: love and religion.

As it turns out, love hasn't been too kind to the boys in the band. Here's the song, Answers to Your Question, in which a bitter lover lashes out at his ex. Against the backdrop of Jeff Tweedy's delicate and pretty 12-string guitar, the ill will expressed by O'Rourke sounds that much deeper.

(Soundbite of song, 'Answers to Your Question')

Mr. JIM O'ROURKE (Musician): (Singing) You always write to ask how come I don't write back. Well, I could tell you, but then I'd have to write.

BRADY: At another point, Tweedy laments losing a lover who, in the end, wasn't much interested in him. His seeming nonchalance and O'Rourke's bouncy piano line mask a profound hurt at the heart of the song.

(Soundbite of song, 'Wanted')

Mr. JEFF TWEEDY (Musician): (Singing) She knows what she wants. She wants what she knows. She wants this to mean nothing and that sounds fair to me.

BRADY: Songs about love we expect from pop musicians. Songs about religion we encounter less frequently. So it's a surprise when Tweedy, O'Rourke and Kotche devote half of their album to singing about religion. They razz the faithful and take obvious delight in poking fun at the pieties of the day.

(Soundbite of song, 'Thou Shalt Wilt')

BRADY: In Thou Shalt Wilt, they offer their impious version of the Ten Commandments. The song's poppy, anthem-like quality makes it sound like a Schoolhouse Rock version of the Decalogue for the secular set.

(Soundbite of song, 'Thou Shalt Wilt')

Mr. TWEEDY (Singing): Number four is such a pain. The Sabbath thing is so arcane. I don't want to desecrate my only day to sleep in late. Don't take his name in vain. This one you want to extend to me. I'll set a clear mandate, the best damn way to conjugate.

We're almost to the end. In heaven you want to ascend. Take them out one at a time.

Mr. BRADY: There's a lot to recommend here. Tweedy, Kotche, and O'Rourke are gifted pop musicians. Consequently, their songs are alive with creative ideas and inventive musical twists. The emotional range displayed in the songs is also impressive and spans searching doubt to the aggressive machismo of the album's rollicking opener, Hey Chicken.

(Soundbite of song, 'Hey Chicken')

Mr. O'ROURKE (Singing): Hey, chicken, you're all talk. Hey, chicken, you're all talk.

Mr. BRADY: But what I really like about this album is the way the band marshals rock and roll - the music our culture continues to associate with youth - and bends and shapes it to project a more adult state of mind.

There's a worldliness here. There's also a certain level of cynicism, a cynicism that comes from advanced dealings with life's frustrations and disappointments.

(Soundbite of song by Loose Fur)

Mr. O'ROURKE (Singing): Don't you know that (unintelligible) the mountain. (Unintelligible) without it. Look at me. If there's something that you missed, if there's something you can't find (unintelligible).

Mr. BRADY: This is not to say that the trio has made a deadly serious album stripped of any fun; quite the contrary. In the barbs they throw religion's way, the trio is funny and entertainingly profane, even as they avoid falling into adolescent vulgarity.

And in the songs that deal with love, they captivate with complex shadings of feeling instead of with overwrought emotionalism. The result is a fascinating departure from the standard rock fare.

(Soundbite of song by Loose Fur)

CHADWICK: The band is Loose Fur. The album is Born Again in the USA. Music critic John Brady is a writer living in Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of song by Loose Fur)

CHADWICK: You can hear tracks from the new Loose Fur CD plus a song from the band's 2003 debut featured on All Songs Considered. That's at our website,

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