Blunderbuss may at first be notable to some because it contains a member of Don Caballero, Jeff Ellsworth. But trust me, this album ought to stand out in its own right. This is one of the most innovative and refreshing albums I’ve heard in a while. It draws on a number of genres for inspiration, but truly belongs to none of them: Touch & Go/Amphetamine Reptile Records style noise rock, math rock, post-rock, and the dirge rock of bands like Codeine.
“Broughton’s Rules” starts the album off with a great groovy bass part and some cool octave-work on the guitars. This is one of the instrumental songs on the album, and it originally had me wondering if the whole album would be instrumental. It turns out the album does have vocals in most of the songs, but they don’t run the show. Anyway, “Broughton’s Rules” is a really off-kilter yet tuneful sort of song that caught my attention instantly. The guitar parts are infinitely cool and the drums are catchy and bouncy, in a good sense, not a lame, radio-friendly sense. The next three tracks, “Somewhere On the Way to There,” “Insomniac,” and “Worn Windowsills,” sound like the grimy offspring of The Jesus Lizard and Codeine, but with a certain flair and aesthetic that only this band could provide.
Next, we have “Surrounded,” which took me completely off guard. This beast of a song reminds me of more recent noise rock bands like Young Widows and Volt. The song is raw, thunderous, atonal, and moody. The vocals shift from a more melodious sound to anguished howls. The guitars and drums sound huge and vicious. My favorite detail, though, are the barely noticeable discordant guitar fills that lead from one riff to another. That’s what I consider brilliant guitar playing.
“Sin Built Stairs” and “I am a Prayer” are slow and brooding, but with a relentless driving feel. “The Burning Bellhop” is the most straightforward song on the album, having the most up-front and melodic vocals, but is still too atonal to be a pop song. “The Trees Will Never Tell” is an instrumental song with a really strong Jesus Lizard/Cherubs feel to it. “Morning Bird,” the closing track, is a laidback but very atmospheric song with beautiful, somber guitars, subdued percussion, and vocals that remind me, of all things, of The Velvet Underground’s “Heroin.”
Some of the songs on this album are catchy enough to appeal to more fickle music fans, but I think this album was intended for the people who can truly appreciate the grittier, more lo-fi end of rock music that has been growing and evolving below the radar of pop culture since the 1980’s. These seasoned veterans of the Pittsburgh, PA music scene (Blunderbuss had been on hiatus for over a decade) have put together a really inventive, nuanced album that I have been listening to non-stop since I got it in the mail. I was originally drawn in by the unique artwork, but honestly, this would still be a great album even if it had the worst cover art ever.
9.2 / 10
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