"We're not breaking any records yet" is the opening line from "This Isn't Farmlife," the first track fromThe Essex Green's fourth outing,Cannibal Sea. The introductory words are rather passive aggressive. Perhaps The Essex Green were feeling like they had nothing to lose with this album, so why not raise the flag with a shrug? Ironically, the nucleus of EG-Jeff Baron, Sasha Bell, and Chris Ziter-came out firing on all cylinders with renewed focus and musical precision. While previous releases tended towards the Brian Wilson approach of utilizing the full studio and all the attendant aural tricks, onCannibal Sea, the band sounds like a cohesive live unit. And the "hits" are numerous: "This Isn't Farmlife" wears a mod stomp skinny tie; raise-the-voice and make-joyful-noise abound on the harmonic "Don't Know Why (You Stay)"; pop supreme "Penny & Jack" summons the Rickenbacker guitar army era of classic IRS records; hints of Stereolab circulate on the starry-eyed "Cardinal Points"; and the spirit of Lee Hazlewood is alive and well on "Rabbit." Through it all, The Essex Green stay rooted in honor of all those coolNuggets compilations, with nods to early Soft Machine, Arthur Lee, The Left Banke, The New Pornographers, and all the dusty $1 record finds in some desolate resale shop just off a two-lane blacktop on Route 66. Ambitious, passionate, and brimming with grace,Cannibal Seamay be rife with metaphorical description, but justice is served after one listen.