In "Usual Suspects," the opening track from Death of a Decade, the Missouri band Ha Ha Tonka busts out of the gates like classic Replacements on an Ozark bender. Premised on a killer riff, a great beat and singer Brian Roberts' throaty roar, Ha Ha Tonka may have created the catchiest mandolin-driven rock song since "Losing My Religion."
"Usual Suspects" reflects the hothouse passions that run deep and familiar to anyone who has ever lived in the close quarters of a small community. Roberts narrates the fraught and indignant emotions of a would-be paramour, faced with competition for his affections from friends and rivals alike: "In this little town, oh, she's such a scandal / Nobody gonna get a handle on her / If you lay it down, oh, it ain't a gamble / It's the surest thing going on around here." Desire, revulsion and obsessive longing — it's love, American style, courtesy of a terrific Missouri band with deep musical roots in its regional traditions. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.