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Bird Blobs: s/t (2004)

October 22, 2012

Roll: 1-5-9
Album: Bird Blobs, Bird Blobs

Supposedly named after guano, the sound of defunct Australian four-piece Bird Blobs comfortably squats somewhere between that of their swampy Aussie progenitors The Birthday Party and The Scientists. The main difference being the vocals sound nothing like Nick Cave‘s or Kim Salmon‘s and rather a lot like Tom Waits doing his tinniest Captain Beefheart imitation through a bullhorn. The end result isn’t that far off from early Blues Explosion recordings, actually.

This slightly bluesy influence probably sets this record apart from those by (similarly named) Slug Guts, an Australian band currently resurrecting this scuzzy post-punk garage twang. That and the songs have a little bit more more going on to distinguish them from one another than the Slugs’ do.

Slug Guts’ grimmer and gothier records might attack you with a pretty harrowing knife edge, but I’ll be damned if I can remember a single hook off any of them. Like any good hipster band, they just sound great and rated purely on fashionable cool, the Slugs are probably one up on the Blobs. But the latter’s self-titled sophomore (or by some reports 3rd) album outstrips the Slugs in terms of depth and apparent sincerity. There’s something about Slug Guts that makes me suspect it’s all a sham, all carefully crafted style over artistic substance.

Which very well might be the case with Bird Blobs as well, but they at least leave the door open to the (faint) possibility they’d never heard Junkyard or Blood Red River and had been innocently mangling the blues in their own swamp rock style. This is something that is clearly not the case in Slug Guts’ carbon-copy approach. Regardless, they’re very much working the same side of the street and if you’re a fan of their previously cited influences (plus American bands like Pussy Galore and Scratch Acid), there’s not much dislike in anything released by either band.

Well, aside from not being quite as original or exciting as their influences.

It’s a double edged sword for second generation and revival movement bands.  Take the acid-folk bands of the early 2000’s. They tended to heighten the dark, mystical creepiness that people associate with the genre while weeding out the twee preciousness that is the reality when you listen to those original ’60s and ’70s LPs. I’d much rather listen to Espers than Pentangle. Similarly, post-punk revival bands focus on recreating the exciting sounds of Modern English, PiL or Wire‘s early singles without the same diminishing returns of the original bands as they learned how to play their instruments “properly” and devolved into lackluster new wave.

But while revivalists have the advantage of learning from their predecessors’ mistakes, by their very nature they’re conservative traditionalists instead of the ingenious trailblazers they pay homage to. There’s almost always something missing. No matter how far into the red the Slugs or the Blobs push the needle, the same spark isn’t quite there. There’s no “eureka” moments and no sense of danger.

When The Birthday Party recorded “Hats on Wrong” there must have been an electric feeling in the studio of performing without a net. In 1980 there were still relatively few bands were daring enough to release a record so off-kilter and abrasive (or perhaps few labels willing to release them). But for a band today recording something like “Hats On Wrong”, they’re doing so in the shadows of Birthday Party, Einstürzende Neubauten, Sonic Youth or anyone else who exploded the envelope of noise, intensity and dissonance previous to 1985. As well, they’re playing in the shadows of the thousands of bands who’ve made abrasive noise their stock and trade since 1985. No shoegaze band will ever record another Loveless, no post-punk band will ever record another Unknown Pleasures. And Slug Guts aren’t ever going to record another Junkyard.

It’s a pretty rare band who can pay homage to their predecessors while bringing something new to the table. The Bird Blobs were, frankly, not really one of these bands. But, that said, their two (possibly three?) records were still pretty great examples of Aussie swamp-rock—a genre which isn’t exactly flooded with releases—and well worth acquiring for devotees of the sound.

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