Quiet and Peace by Buffalo TomRelease date: March 2, 2018
Label: Schoolkids Records
This month’s 90’s revival is brought to you by the letter B. The Breeders and Belly have new material out this month and we also have Quiet and Peace by Buffalo Tom, their first since 2011’s Skins, and their third since reforming.
The Boston-based trio emerged to become one of the most enduring and cherishable of the post-grunge eras guitar bands and their sound remains pretty much intact from that time. Sure, there’s less of a punkish rush to the tunes but the strong melodies, spirit-lifting vocal harmonies and the Townsend-esque slashing, guitar playing are all reassuringly present.
In truth the band always sounded like optimistic but weary baby boomers, rather than mixed-up Generation X kids, and so the advancing years has had little effect on their craft. Full of bittersweet and wistful lyrics, the heartland rock of Quiet and Peace sounds timeless and as welcome as a hot chocolate after a winter walk along the coast. True to form, many of the songs deal with the passing of ever more precious time and the sort of parental anxiety from the tour bus themes that you also hear on Patterson Hood’s solo material. The coastal scenery around Massachusetts also figures prominently – time is spent around boats, bobbing on the water and, it seems, the Hammond organ and guitar effects that underpin these songs have a sort of gentle rocking buoyancy to them.
Chief songwriter Bill Janovitz has never sounded more grounded or soulful than he does on his tracks here and so it’s up to bassist Chris Colbourn to inject a more circumspect, spiky feel on his handful of numbers. Despite his sweeter voice giving a powerpop sheen to numbers like ‘CatVMouse’ his songs add some welcome knotty attitude to the albums, generally, mellow vibe.
Best of all are the tracks where Janovitz and Coulson’s voices complement each other, as on the, sublime, aching pulse of ‘Freckles’ and especially when Coulson pitches in on the choral refrain to Janovitz’s strangely uplifting tale of ageing ‘All Be Gone’, the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Emotionally charged high points crop up constantly – I challenge you to listen to ‘Slow Down’ and not get caught up in its lump-in-the-throat inspirational swell.
They can still rock out, of course, check the swashbuckling soloing at the end of ‘All Be Gone’ which calls to mind J Mascis, and ‘Lonely Fast and Deep’ zips along like a sugar rush on a carousel, to the extent that you could quite conceivably get caught dancing like an idiot to it.
Surprisingly it ends with a version of ‘The Only Living Boy in New York’ by Simon & Garfunkel. It’s a fairly faithful run through, but the band add a weathered grace and battered soul that the preppy original couldn’t possibly contain.
That cover aside, Buffalo Tom don’t do anything unexpected, flash or controversial here, but what they have done is make a beautifully simple and simply beautiful rock album. A career high.