Year Of The White Buffalo's self-titled debut commences
with the misleading "There's A Bug In My Head," a brief
but effective instrumental with a haunting, albeit basic, keyboard
melody plunked out over a backdrop of ambient guitar feedback.
Such an intro could portend many things, from avant-garde soundscapes
to a black metal band warming up before unleashing the heaviness.
In this case, it inexplicably leads into a set of blustering rock
songs full of chunky chords and hearty, earnest vocals, all of
which seem aimed at capturing the venerated (or at least Vedderated)
glory days of mid-90s grunge, but which, at their best, recall
all-star side projects like Brad or Mad Season,
where songs that couldn't make the cut on actual Pearl Jam
or Alice In Chains albums went to die.
Typical is "4 P.J.," with one-man-band Buffalo-meister
Dave Black groaning, "I don't know how much I can
take." You and me both, buddy. The album plods through several
more takes on the same theme, with titles such as "Fall To
The Gun" and "Rest Of My Life" mapping out their
lyrical content pretty efficiently. Memorable hooks are not exactly
in abundance, though "Otherside" comes closest; in an
alternate history, one can imagine this having been a hit in the
days when dinosaurs like Seven Mary Three roamed the charts
- which is not to say it's a good song, only that it might have
made sufficiently bland background music in beer tents and keg
parties across the continent to move some units.
Year Of The White Buffalo does move beyond grunge occasionally,
and the slow, bluesy "Everybody Else" shows that the
band can achieve mediocrity in two genres. Credit must be given
where credit is due, though: "Window Song," with its
wistful lyrics asking, "Where are those days/lost in a haze,"
taps into a convincing mood of regret that practically begs for
video treatment. It's as clichéd and anonymous as the rest
of the album, but sometimes the standard rock tropes become clichés
for a reason, and the song packs an emotional punch. Other times,
genres like grunge fade into pop-cultural memory because they
play themselves out until every decimal point on the dial sounds
like the fifty-third chorus of "Spoonman." That happened
sometime around 1996, but Year of the White Buffalo apparently
failed to notice.
1. There's a Bug in My Head
2. 4 P.J.
3. Fall to the Gun
4. Window Song
5. Sun Will Rise
6. Friends of Mine
7. Everybody Else
9. Rest of My Life
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