Rhymestones: N.C. band Bombadil releases a gem of an album
Irrepressible indie band Bombadil creates an enjoyable spectacle on stage. The Durham groupís adroit sharing of instruments and hyperactive approach to entertaining has earned them a reputation as a group to see, not just hear.
But they held still long enough to capture 11 of their songs on a new album, iA Buzz, a Buzz,î set for nationwide release April 29. And their energy is not lost, but instead crystallized in songs that are poetic gems, like the irhymestonesî they sing of in their song iSmile When You Kiss.î
This long-promised album has been over a year in the making, but you donít want to rush fermentation. Listeners are now rewarded with a CD that was allowed to grow organically in Bombadilís music vineyard, where 2008 should be a very good year.
Band members Daniel Michalak, Bryan Rahija and Stuart Robinson are troubadours in the true medieval sense of the term ó equal parts composer and performer. And each has a unique approach contributing to the bandís endless variety.
Rounding out the band on the recording is Michalakís brother John on drums, with the exception of the final track with Bombadilís summer drummer Stephen Bennett. (James Phillips is the current drummer.)
The album opens with the picturesque iTrip Out West.î Relaxed phrases start and stop, bringing to mind an artist dabbing paint on a canvas, then stepping back to see how it looks. After making us wait so long to hear this CD, they prolong the suspense with this prelude that seems in no hurry.
Or maybe itís more like the starts and stops of a ferris wheel as people are strapped into their seats. Theyíre rewarded with an exhilarating ride, just as listeners will be with this album.
Bombadil picks up the pace with iJulian of Norwichî a tale of the 14th-century anchoress combining modern rock instruments with more historic and exotic choices from the bandís collection.
iJulianî fits Bombadilís musical personality, but itís the one song on the CD not authored by a band member. It was written by Dan Shvartsman, college friend, collaborator and the bandís first manager before they signed with Ramseur Records in 2006. Heís also the one who christened them iBombadilî after the enigmatic Tolkien character.
Examining the album as a whole, a form emerges: an arch. The title song, iBuzz a Buzz,î track six, is the keystone, with five songs leading up to it and five moving away.
These groupings divide themselves categorically. The first half is pervaded by a theme of barriers and snares. Julian is in her cell, the protagonist in iBuzz a Buzzî is trapped by walls. iSmile When You kissî points out the burden of being tied to job, cellphone and worries about what people think.
Or communication can be the barrier. iRosetta Stoneî stands out with its poignant lyricsóiTeach me your alphabet so I can break your code.î The emotional impact of words is then underscored by the pensive iThree Saddest Words.î
Arriving at the top of the arch, the song iBuzz a Buzzî paces back and forth between mostly two chords, painting a mood of constraint even better than the lyrics isurrounded by four walls.î With no harmonic avenue of escape, the listener is encircled by sounds that buzz and swirl, then vanish.
More instruments join, layering, building to a climax when, unable to break through walls, the song takes the only means of deliverance left ó upward. The song soars as it bursts its bonds, with Rahijaís soulful declamation rising above it all.
Thus freed, the second set of songs that flank the Buzz a Buzz centerpiece are a collection of reflection, celebration and reminiscence.
The simple love song, iOne Two Three, with solo acoustic guitar and Michalakís gentle vocals are a complete contrast to what preceded it, serving as a musical rest stop for the listener on the journey through this album.
Then on to the brash iCavaliersî where the emboldened crew declares they shall ifight like a lion with a sword in its side.î They seem to unleash their entire arsenal of instruments in this one, a wonderfully noisy accompaniment to a chorus of voices that sound pleasantly drunk.
iCaterpillar Treeî has been a staple of their stage show, where the band not only sings about metamorphosis, but acts it out as well, going from cocoon to butterfly at a fast tempo without missing a beat. Bombadil fans may be surprised to hear the slowed-down, folksy version of the same song included on this CD ifor old times sake.î
Conversely, one then encounters a faster version of iJohnny,î the only survivor from the bandís earlier EP to make it onto the full length album. Robinsonís cheerful song about a cutter has become more buoyant still, making the contrast between the lyrics and their musical setting even more startling than before
Bombadil wraps up the album with iGet to Gettiní Onî which has warmth in spite of its kiss-off lyrics, and a hook that youíll keep singing to yourself long after the CD ends.
Want to meet Bombadil?
Bombadil will be performing a live set from the new release iA Buzz a Buzzî and signing autographs at 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 30, at Manifest Discs, 6239 South Blvd. Charlotte.
For information, call 704-552-8448.
You can hear Bombadil and view their tour schedule at: www.myspace.com/bombadil.
Contact Sarah Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-797-4271.