Tuesday, March 12, 2013

REVIEW: BISON B.C. - LOVELESSNESS



Bison B.C.’s “Primal Emptiness of Outer Space,” the opening track on their album Quiet Earth, is a song that I could still listen to everyday, regardless of the scenario. Pumping myself up before a job interview, dicing peppers to make sloppy joe sauce, inspirational music for a  kickboxing training montage... there just isn’t a situation where that song wouldn’t make the moment appropriately bad ass. I saw them play at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn when the venue was still a plump, delicious little newborn and they had absolutely contagious energy, flashing grins and splashing sweat all over the monitors while playing for a modest crowd. It was the type of performance with less-than-ideal attendance that shows you that a band would be having this much fun even if it was just them and a few forties in a cellar somewhere.

The Vancouver band’s newest release, Lovelessness, was their final album before being released by Metal Blade Records this past January. It’s truly unfortunate that they ended their relationship on this note, as this release is a step backwards, mildly retreating from the energy and immediacy that sent me flapping madly towards their music like a drunken moth to a boiler-lighting Zippo.

Thematically the album definitely departs from the pulpy sci-f/fantasy adventure territory of previous releases, where no fewer than three songs were written about the Wendigo. The songs all burn with familiar rage heard in prior Bison B.C. material, but this time around the music seems weighed down by it, as opposed to unleashing the songs to breathe and explore. While some fans may champion this as a more “mature” approach to songwriting, one that tries to milk the most out of each gargantuan riff and patiently constructs songs approaching ten minutes in length, I never felt that Bison B.C. needed ten minutes to work out their ideas. With James Farwell and Dan And’s ferocious guitar work driving the great Bison forward they always wrote concise, brawny songs that punch holes through prison walls and incite jail breaks. There really isn’t a bad performance to be found on this album, as Matt Wood remains one of my favorite (and criminally unheralded) drummers. But whatever this “mature” direction is, I want to spray it with silly string and tell it poop jokes to bring it back down to my level of stunted growth.

“Clozapine Dream” feels like vintage Bison B.C., snarling and rampaging across frozen tundra in a four-person herd. Still, even that song would rank among the least memorable on any of their prior albums. Here it’s a reminder of the more confrontational rock foundation they built their sound on. This album still boasts a collection of meaty riffs, from the fuzzy, stampeding gallop in the middle of “Last and First Things” (which sounds like Orange Goblin playing at their fastest), to the dirty-jeans classic rock jamming closing out the album on “Finally Asleep.” The real problem for me was just the relentless sorrow in this album. When Bison B.C. thrives it’s while they’re smiling through the aggression, not “desperately puking out psalms of suffering” as they wrote in their promotional material. I just want to give Lovelessness-era Bison B.C. a collective bear hug and take them out to a titty bar to get them out of their funk.

I have to say that Bison B.C. seemed like great dudes when I briefly met them at their merch table and it bums me out that they’re dealing with this change. That said, they did offer an optimistic press release after receiving the news, ending with, “Thanks to everyone at Metal Blade for trying to help us polish this turd." If that closing phrase is any indication, hopefully Bison B.C. can abandon some of the maturity while retaining their considerable songwriting-chops and trample us with a stronger release next time around, because there’s no denying the talent is there.

Check out the album streaming over at Bandcamp here:  http://bison.bandcamp.com/

And follow their post-Metal Blade journey over on their Facebook page at:   https://www.facebook.com/bisonbc

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