You just can’t keep a good band down. If there is a lesson learned in rock music in 2007, it is just that. The last few years, and this one in particular, has found a host of great bands from the past reuniting to give the rock and roll dream another go-round. In the late ’90s, a major label conglomeration found many artists losing their contracts, with the new mega-label dropping anyone who reached a certain sales threshold. Among those dropped were Morrissey, Tori Amos and yes, Buffalo Tom. After a nine-year absence, however, Buffalo Tom has resurfaced with a new album. It’s been a long time since the band has been called Dinosaur Jr. Jr. and the trio is back to prove that they still have rock chops and gorgeous ballads. Cal Tech’s famous professor, Richard Feynman, summed up the physics of the universe in Six Easy Pieces. Buffalo Tom show on their new album that all it takes to enforce the gravity of true rock and roll is Three Easy Pieces.
“Bad Phone Call” storms out of the gate with ringing guitars and sweet rock harmonies, making one think that nine years really isn’t all that long a time. The title track combines a New Order / Peter Hook bassline with reverb-laden guitars reminiscent of the early ’90s rock from whence they were born. Listening to the title track sent me spiraling back to my college days when bands like Teenage Fanclub, Soul Asylum, R.E.M. and the Replacements were my world. “You’ll Never Catch Him” is particularly reminiscent of Soul Asylum in their heyday, though the vocals have an unmistakable likeness to Don Henley. This particular track, and its incredibly catchy tones, make me wonder why Buffalo Tom never really `made it,’ while bands like the Gin Blossoms did. “You’ll Never Catch Him” is one of those songs that probably took a while to come together, but it seems so effortlessly sweet that you’d swear it’s been around for years.
The same is true for “Bottom of the Rain” in which the line “Where’d they go, those golden years?” is sung. I found myself asking the same thing just before Buffalo Tom vocalized it. In listening to Three Easy Pieces, its overlapping vocals, and heavy melodic guitars, I found myself pining for the years of the Posies, Sugar and the Afghan Whigs. In other words, disciples of Alex Chilton, why have you forsaken me? Thankfully, Buffalo Tom has brought this kind of music roaring back into life. “Pendleton,” one of the songs vocalized by bassist Chris Colbourn, is another amazing standout track, building up into a passionate round refrain. Songs like this don’t come along that often, and to have a few like this on one album goes to show just how powerful it really is.
If there’s one thing proven by Buffalo Tom with Three Easy Pieces, it’s that great rock and roll has no timeframe. The music on this album fits as easily in this era as it would have in the ’90s, the ’80s or even the ’70s, for that matter. Melody, hooks and brilliant songcraft never go out of style and Buffalo Tom have them all in spades. Buffalo Tom is one of the few bands I’ve heard that can manage to maintain their own style while performing covers that are seemingly impossible to update. Their cover of The Jam’s “Going Underground” is one of my favorite covers of all time, and easily one of the best on Fire and Skill. I guess when you’ve got it, you’ve got it.
Boston has always been kind of a strange town for rock and roll. It’s not strange in that I can’t understand how rock musicians can come from there, but strange in the sense that the rock music that emanates from Boston is probably the most diverse on the planet. It seemed as if there was no distinct musical identity, which might have been a good thing. Aerosmith, The Pixies, Aimee Mann, Isis and New Kids on the Block all go to prove the diversity of Boston’s music. Buffalo Tom is one of Boston’s finest and is well deserving of a reunion. Unlike a lot of other reunions that fell flat on their collective faces when it came down to recording new music (Pixies, anyone? Rage Against the Machine? This is their time!), Buffalo Tom came through with flying colors. I gave a stifled yawn at the return of The Police, scratched my head at the Rush reunion, but, after hearing, Three Easy Pieces, am dancing with joy over the return of Buffalo Tom.
Afghan Whigs- Gentlemen
Soul Asylum- Grave Dancer’s Union
The Replacements- Don’t Tell a Soul