Bobby Bare Jr.’s Young Criminals Starvation League "The Longest Meow" (Bloodshot 2006)
11 songs in 11 hours as maverick rattles off a gem
This is the second release from Bobby Bare Jr’s Young Criminals Starvation League and to keep the format fresh the maverick singer rounded up some contemporaries and simply got on with it. The whole shebang is a numerologist’s dream as it was recorded in 11 hours with 11 musicians and features 11 songs. Musicians from Clem Snide, …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead and Lambchop gladly gave up a day to chip in but the most telling contribution comes from My Morning Jacket’s Jim James whose fingerprints are all over the album.
Like a low-budget film the album’s charm rests on its devil-may-ride production. Despite a couple of horn overdubs the album maintains the spontaneous feel of a rowdy session amongst friends without coming across as a collection of half-baked songs and outtakes. Opening track ‘The Heart Bionic’ is one of the best things Bare Jr has produced. The song combines his hung-over vocals and vividly odd lyrics with wall-of-sound rowdy guitars and driving horns that could have been lifted from a Madness record. “Now I’ve got electric blood,” Bare boasts after he has a supersonic heart transplant. It is a stunning mix that raises the bar of expectation for what he can achieve.
In tune with his eclectic nature Bare immediately drops the tone with the sweet ‘Gun Show’ that climaxes with My Morning Jacket ‘big’ riffs. Bare then turns to some Calexico-inspired mariachi horns for ‘Back to Blue’ - a fantastic alt-country number laced with lovely pedal steel and a melody and harmony reminiscent of Gram Parsons. “If I was a shirt, I’d not be on nobody’s back,” Bare sings which sums up his attitude. The soaring ‘Demon Valley’, a country number that mixes his fragile vocals and nursery-rhyme melodies with a Richmond Fontaine landscape, repeats the trick. In spite of its rough-and-tumble production, these songs are perfectly pitched.
Bare’s scattergun approach to style does not always hit the mark. While ‘Sticky Chemical’ uses cheeky horn arrangements to add some swing to a slight song and gets away with it, ‘Uh Woh Oh’ proves a distraction too far. Meanwhile ‘Snuggling World Championship’ sounds like a My Morning Jacket b-side while a loose cover of The Pixies’ classic ‘Where is My Mind’ is passable but not compelling.
Nevertheless this is a great album that will infect your ‘mayonnaise brain’ with charming melodies and catchy riffs all night long. ‘The Long Meow’ only enhances Bare Jr’s maverick reputation and will have fans slavering for more. Hell the album only took a day to record so what’s stopping him?
Date review added: Friday, November 17, 2006
Reviewer: Nic Fildes
Related web link: Label web site