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Marah, fans reconcile 

Philly band and diehards back together again

In hindsight, it was one of those knock-down, drag-out blowouts married couples have to go through to see if they're in it for the long haul. In the case of Marah vs. Marah's fans, it was an acrimonious but temporary split -- lots of name-calling, a little action on the side, separation, and the eventual realization that they were, in fact, made for each other.

You can't blame either party. Marah (the brothers Dave and Serge Bielanko) had put out a marvelously inventive homage to their hometown -- Kids In Philly, which Nick Hornby defined as "the Pogues re-imagined by the E Street band" -- and were receiving critical kudos high and low. But all the plaudits in the world didn't even cover the bar tab, and the meager sales couldn't provide the band with a bigger stage on which to strut their considerable stuff.

So the Bielankos strayed. They left home for England, where they hooked up with Owen Morris, a producer (Oasis, New Order) who'd seduced plenty before. The result was Float Away With the Friday Night Gods, a partially successful attempt to reinvent themselves. Word got back that the Bielankos were leaving their roots behind and undergoing a makeover.

But like most rebound relationships, it turned out Morris and Marah weren't a good fit. The former's production buried the Bielankos' strong points -- the lyrics and detail work. The diehards dismissed it out of hand, which was hardly fair to Marah, who simply needed something new in their musical lives.

But eventually, Marah and Marah's fans came to realize that neither had meant to hurt the other -- the fans were afraid of losing what they loved, and the band felt like they weren't being allowed to evolve. In the end, they preferred being together rather than apart.

The happy couple has a new home (Yep Roc), and a young one on the way (20,000 Streets Under the Sky, due June 29). Damn, don't you love a happy ending?

Marah plays at The Room Thursday, with the Gold Coast, and Chad Edwards and Nicole Atkins opening. For more info go to www.theroom.tv

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