Review Summary: What happens when a brilliant band is dumped by an underappreciative record company? They come back and release a ball tearer of a tear jerker of an album.
So it came to that time in the life of Bluebottle Kiss
that comes to many a great band. After the 1997 release of their Somnambulist Homesick Blues EP, Bluebottle Kiss found themselves dropped from their record label, Murmer. And so came the time for decisions: throw in the towel, go on making obscure records that slide into anonymity, or release all that pent up anger in the most cathartic possible way: go into the studio, beat the life out of your instruments, and leave all the emotion hammered into the recording with minimal polishing. Well, on Patient they chose the latter.
Patient is Bluebottle Kiss' most concise album, coming in at around 43 minutes. The album greatly benefits from it's relatively short length, and was their last album as a three piece. The band at this stage consisted of Jamie Hutchings on guitar and singing, Ben Fletcher on bass doing back up vocals, and Richard Coneliano on drums. Although sprawling masses of feedback for many, many minutes have become somewhat ingrained with what Bluebottle Kiss do, the concentrated feeling of most of Patient's songs, and indeed of the album, allow for some of their most musically, and emotionally, powerful material.
Return To The City Of Folded Arms - 2:57. (Released as a single)
Beginning unobtrusively as many a Bluebottle Kiss song does, the sound of a train station, light acoustic strumming, and a man's coughing open up into the drop of a bass note and the crack of drums. The verse vocals go back and forth between Jamie and Ben, creating a great effect between the vocals' fragility and the music's intensity. This song has some of Jamie Hutchings best lyrics in my opinion, and has a fantastic build up to a feedback riddled lead guitar, with Jamie and Ben repeating 'You're nobody" until the end, in a somewhat comforting, advisory way. Easily one of Bluebottle Kiss' catchiest songs, it's almost over before you realise, but it only forces you to play it again and again.
Smother It In Honey - 4:32.
This song to me sounds like something that could almost have been turned into some sort of indie-pop tune, if it hadn't have been caught and pounded into a dense, ambling ode to someone once loved now hated. The drums really carry this song along, with the guitar playing a somewhat backing role a lot of the time. Once again, discordant guitars create a menacing, almost nagging sound, building up to what was to be an inevitable breakdown. The theme is well presented in the song's last line, "My worst best friend". It ends with a minute of great drumming from Richard, and Jamie belting away at his guitar. Fantastic.
Girl Genius - 3:13. (Released as a single)
An absolutely beautiful song. No bass on this one, just a few acoustic chords strummed, an electric played with a slide, a little piano tinkling, and drums being drummed in a slightly mechanical, quite repetitive (but to good effect) manner. One of my favourite lyrics appears here, "But every year goes past just like a clock, you never see it move, but you never see it stop." Very lovely.
Homeless Blueless - 7:18.
Ah, the album's first epic-esque song. Homeless Blueless is probably the albums heart, and dare I say it, balls. The song becomes quite hypnotic, like a train travelling through a country town that had seen far better days. Some great low bass notes give the song it's brooding undertone. After a period of near silence with Jamie almost inaudibly picking at his guitar, softly singing like a broken man reforming, the song bursts into the brooding cacophany that was promised earlier. The remainder of the song follows a similar path to the beginning, slowly changing, keeping to it's hypnotic framework, with Jamie and Ben sweetly singing "You're never leaving town." Sit in a dark room, directly infront of your speakers, and turn it up very loud.
Running Around The White Picket Fence - 4:00.
And now, more cacophany. Possibly Bluebottle Kisses loudest song, a bit of almost painful feedback leads into some absolutely explosive drumming. The song does not lose any of it's intensity, merely shifting from unstifled, well I suppose rage, to something fearful, something anxious, something at the end of it's tether. An amazingly powerful song, you'll be sitting there smashing away at imaginary drums and screaming at nothing in particular for hours.
Matrimony - 3:24.
Sitting, switching position from holding head in hands to staring at the ceiling, wondering if you've got any energy left for anything, is where this song fits into life. Jamie seems to love sampling sounds from seemingly mundane aspects of life for his songs, this one beginning with windscreen wipers, and featuring a sound found in a few Bluebottle Kiss songs, crickets. The bass slides up and down, back and forth, while an electric guitar softly plays. The tension builds up at a couple of points, sounding as if it could almost come alive and tear into you, but then just slinks away. It ends up being a song you may want to dance alone to as it comes to an end, and you realise you may as well just forget about it all and smile.
Give Up The Ghost - 4:04.
Drums slowly build up in volume to be met by a guitar strumming between two chords, and the bass-line which carries the tune of the song. No crazy spin outs on this song, the drumming carries it along pretty much uninterruptedly til the end. This is the albums most positive sounding track, and possibly it's most accesible to people not familiar with Bluebottle Kiss. A short, catchy song that sees a nice break in between the more bleak. It also samples the song 'Photo Albums' by the Fauves towards the end.
Six Wheels - 3:29.
Possibly my favourite song on the album, and definitely it's darkest sounding. The guitars are very distorted, they plunge down to become very deep sounding, then come right back up. The verse vocals consist of Jamie screaming for all he's worth, while the chorus see's an acoustic guitar become slightly apparent and the vocals less, well, screamy. An awesome bridge see's a lot of distortion yet again, and some of the best drumming on the album. This song absolutely rips through you. It's a wave, it gets you in it's froth, then spews you out onto the beach feeling somehow enriched. It also contains the album's 'uh', sort-of-Zach de la Rocha, sort-of-grunting-sort-of-spitting sound.
Maps To Help You Lose Your Way - 7:00.
This, for me anyway, is the albums tear jerker. Jamie's vocals again produce the sense of fragility that becomes quite evocative. Evocative. Yes, that's the word for this song. It's going to remind you of something painful, and when Jamie hits his falsetto, you're probably going to bawl. The song eventually begins to build up a little until the drums finally get beaten hard, Jamie finally hits some destructive chords, and again screams. Of all the sections of this album to listen to, the middle to end of this song is the most cathartic. It;s just guitar, bass, and drums, but put together to very, very good effect. As I said, maybe it will remind you of a lost love, a betrayal, or a chance you never took but should have. But it may also take a little of that away.
Paddock Blues - 3:56.
As the last song on the album, to me it feels as if it's meant to act as some sort of repose after the undoubted, for lack of a better term, 'emotional journey' of the album. The song consists of some acoustic picking and an electric played with a slide. Throughout the song high pitched feedback softly flows in and out, 'til the end when almost everything else becomes inaudible. Although this song does act as some sort of repose, it still sounds very bleak. It acts perfectly to allow you to reflect upon what has just come before it, and that is by no means suggesting it is not a worthy song in it's own right.
Overall, this album should definitely appeal to those who are fans of discordant, (and sorry to use an incredibly vague term) alternative rock, with a little bit of an alt. country twang resounding throughout. The songwriting is as brilliant as you will find in an Australian alternative rock release, and the muscial performance does very, very well to encompass the energy of their live shows.
4 out of 5.