No genre is safe in new Edie Brickell & New Bohemians album
In the late 1960s and the early 1970s, the world was excited by a new musical fad: jam bands. A sort of clash between the organized chaos of jazz and the electricity of rock ‘n’ roll, the scene began to take shape and influence others. Some of those influenced were Edie Brickell & New Bohemians. Hailing from Dallas, this group caught the aftershock of the initial movement and added their own Texas flare.
The 1980s saw their first success with their double-platinum debut album, Shooting Rubberbands at the Stairs, which features their most well-known song, “What I Am.” Since then, Brickell and her band of troubadours have only released three other albums until Hunter and the Dog Star, which they released in February. Showcasing the breadth of genres that have defined them over the years, this album and group’s versatility is anything but unimpressive.
The album opens with a punch to the face in “Sleeve,” beginning with an aggressive drum beat, bass and guitars that sound as if Flea and Jerry Garcia got together to jam a little. Brickell’s light, high-pitched voice then dances on top of the instrumentation, which then evolves into a melodic and emotional chorus listing some of the things that appear on this tattoo “sleeve.” This song shows their ability to “jam” purposefully and create a catchy and authentic track.
“Don’t Get In The Bed Dirty” accidentally came to Brickell on a walk. It started with that notion alone: don’t get in the bed dirty. This idea formed into a fun song about loving the one you’re with and having the respect not to “get in the bed dirty.”
So far the most popular track on the album, the fourth song brings people to “Stubborn Love.” A dampened keyboard and drums give off a dingy feeling leading perfectly into the first line, “late at night at the bowling alley, Motown and cold beer.” Brickell and company continue to tell the simple yet human story of a love affair with a bowling alley attendant turned mother, then ex, then a corpse. This song showcases the alternative in their sound.
Jumping around again genre-wise, their native Texan gives way to an acoustic guitar and a story about a “sunny girl living in Abilene” in the contemplative “Rough Beginnings.” Country gives to pop-punk in the next song, “Tripwire.” “Ohs” and “woahs” play over a slamming drum beat between quick and punchy lyrics. Listeners of modern alternative music like The 1975 or Young the Giant would be highly susceptible to the fun that this song brings.
“Horse’s Mouth” is the next song on the track to get the Country treatment and is the only explicit song on the entire record. A satirical commentary on the lies that sometimes can be spewed and skewed, Brickell argues that “you don’t hear it from the horse’s mouth, you’re hearing it from a horse’s ass.”
The best song on the album comes with track number nine in the slowed down, rhythmic “Miracles.” Guitars guide along the melody as a simple drumbeat gives the steady, relaxing presence that is only exacerbated by Brickell’s voice. Reflecting on “miracles seen with [her] own eyes,” the group could not have chosen a better instrumentation and cadence to support this introspection.
“My Power” is the final showing of Edie Brickell & New Bohemians’ ability to create incredible music while being able to jump around to different sounds. Loud and striking, a synth greets you into a rolling rock drum kit and guitars. The fun does not stop in the last song on the album, in some sense, much of the fun of the project was left to this song. As lively as it is empowering, the music again backs up the message of the song. Though maybe not the “best” on the album, it deserves the respect that is given to the last track.
Listening through an album many times can be challenging. Voices, sounds and rhythms blend together leaving a listener feeling as though they couldn’t pick out a song or two that stood out to them. This album was not like that. Not only could Edie Brickell & New Bohemians jump around from genre to genre, but the effortless fashion in which they did would impress even the most casual listeners. Country, alternative, pop, punk and rock were all represented incredibly and cohesively, making this an album that would cater to music fans everywhere.