Review Summary: A 90s alt rock masterpiece pulled from a conjurers top hat.
Grant Lee Buffalo a Californian alt rock three piece were thrust into the world of potential stardom when this, their debut was proclaimed by R.E.Ms’ Michael Stipe to be the best album of 1993. MTV and the worlds arenas beckoned as Grant Lee Buffalo had a support slot on R.E.Ms’ Monster tour. The door was opened for the masses to listen but they simultaneously shrugged, sniffed, turned their backs and forgot .
Twenty years on however and this cult classic when listened to conjures up vivid images of 19th century vaudevillian acts conducting smoke and mirror tricks played out in plush decorated parlours of velvet red drapery. All the while the insinuation of voodoo, spirits and metaphysical unknowns splice songs that rant political discontent.
No wonder backs were turned.
The opener ‘The Shining Hour’ with its relatively quick tempo and lyrics confessing “It kills me to think that I’m no longer living just looking for excuses to drink. So lift up your glass and your Ouija board cos’ I’m fading fast” hold onto the otherworldly séance atmosphere that vibrates throughout the album.
The pace is slowed with Jupiter and Teardrop, a tale of two lovers torn by troubles with the law which is sung with a croon which explodes making it all seem like its been lived. The song soars with a great guitar solo to accompany the expressed situation of the 38. Calibre wielding Teardrop.
Pardon the shocking alliteration but ‘Fuzzy’ follows where again vocalist Grant Lee Phillips with an almost Morrisonesque vocal style sings of a love |watering “like a dead bouquet” over a slow acoustic groove.
The album which has a Velvet Underground, Venus in Fur style influence at its foundation goes onto explore predatory sex offenders, ghostly encounters with voodoo mistresses in New Orleans and in the track Grace the exploitation of Native Americans which has the superlative lyric “You remember Houdini who not a shackle could hold, carved a trapdoor into Heaven to escape growing old.”
The political angst is palpable in tracks, Stars N Stripes and America Snoring but never forced and always sung in a melancholic voice that captivates.
The true value of this album is that every song whether it be personal, parable, rant or ode is done with a heartfelt quality that for those who don’t turn their backs will forever hold an indelibility of realism and honesty.
The vaudevillian show with its smoke and mirrors was all fantastical illusion this however is nothing but truth, reality and a highly recommended enthralling listen.