Zac Bench fronts the uniquely expressive, blues-kissed, lo-fi soul-fuzz that is Buffalo Mend – a band who launched their brand new 19 track album this very February. Center Street is a scene-setter, a story-teller, an organic hit of classic, emotive escapism, and it makes for a beautifully refreshing hour or so of music.
From the opening moments of Hellbounds, you quickly get a feel for the project’s intention and vibe. Enter distortion, free-flowing solo-play, a bluesy, tired vocal and a blissful level of space. The groove grabs you, this live-drum sound is hypnotically mellow and consistent; meanwhile the world passes by through the windows of the song. A gorgeous way to begin.
18th Century Blues follows with a satisfying chord progression. Here things get all the more raw, acoustic and intimate.
This is by far a songwriting-focused project – these are moments in time, poems and stories that need no filler or fancy features to give them weight.
As the first half of the project goes on, moments of acoustic delicacy are intermittently fed through amidst those with a live-rock sentiment and more of that sleepy, seductive mellow groove-work. Always Bench is the poet, the artist – often tipping his hat to the lost-in-the-moment styles of grunge and folk heavyweights alike. Peter Rabbit’s Lament offers hints of a Pixies or Nirvana writing style. Another Desert Song then lifts the mood in a subtle and mildly melancholic, folk-ish way.
Shoe-gaze, lo-fi, alt-rock, blues – there are dashes of all manner of guitar-led music on this album. More than the style though, it’s the artistry and humanity on display. 1923 is a definite highlight for its purity, its history and startling relevance alike – its fine balance between darkness and light; a trait that runs throughout the band’s music.
What’s great about an album like this, is that it captures a precise creative process. You can let the music fill the room and simply go about your own day with faith that it will keep the mood. Or, if you choose to, you can dig a little deeper, and really listen, and a whole world of ideas and poetic stories emerge – giving the playlist a thousand more reasons to stand the test of time. Free Train ends the first half with utter passion and sadness intertwined.
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And I’ve got nowhere to go, but they say that love is everywhere…
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‘Side Two’, as it were, leads in with a simple back-and-forth chord progression. The drums return, rhythm creates a sense of involvement and optimism. From Help A Friend through to Cowboys, distorted atmospheric rock creates a live ambiance and proceeds to throw in more of those captivating, intriguing stories.
The bigger sound continues, with Money’s Gone introducing a strange musical optimism that juxtaposes a deeply pessimistic lyrical backbone. Contrast works its magic to a bold degree.
There are hints of Elliott Smith to some of the music, flickers of Eels on occasion, fragments of Neil Young and even Bob Dylan every once in a while. Ultimately though, such an extensive collection has to find its own pathway, and Buffalo Mend do that early on – meaning the rest of the playlist is yours to appreciate as new.
From the welcomed harmonica of My Heart, through the guitar solo swagger of Wait Up, to the distance and reverb of Two Roads, the collection offers mild artistic eclecticism, realness, and equal parts personal reflection and observational detailing. Sometimes things get intimate, other times they stand back and stare at the world, attempting to deliver an explanation.
Be There adds a hit of heaviness at the penultimate moment, then a heartfelt, longing Sally brings things to a soulful, vulnerable and powerfully human finish. Lovely songwriting, and not a touch of falseness or auto-tune in sight.
Download the album via iTunes.