A Man, A Song, A Skewed Mind
|Bobby Bare Jr.|
Bobby Bare Jr.’s music sounds like Bobby Bare Jr. looks ... that is to say, a little crazed. Considering Bare is the namesake of one of country music’s greatest, and that he grew up in Tennessee with George Jones and Tammy Wynette as his neighbors, it’s unsurprising that his worldview is a little different than most. Bobby Bare, his father, placed a few dozen hit songs on country’s pop charts, but Bare Jr. traded country for eccentricity a long time ago. And while his lyrics and intent are sometimes inscrutable, it’s this absurdist poet persona that makes him so likeable.
OK, and sometimes his music is pretty darn good too. Take the song “Your Goat Is on Fire” from his latest CD, A Storm, a Tree, My Mother’s Head. I couldn’t play the rest of the album because I kept hitting repeat after this one. It has simplicity and warm harmonies that grab hold, creating just the right aural blanket, comforting enough to block out the weird image of lyrics like this: “The kosher Oreos / Sliding down your hollow throat / Makes a dishonest mind float / Like a flaming arrow through a wet goat.”
The rest of the album reveals that Bare Jr. really is a sincere musician who seems to revel in poking fun at everything he can. He topples expectations and categorizations like kids with blocks. Bobby Bare Jr.’s heaven is a place where Roy Acuff cuts the umbilical strings, there’s always lots of beer and everyone is given a talent for beautiful songs and twisted lyrics. Bobby Bare Jr., Blue Giant and Tom Heinl play at 9:30 pm Saturday, Sept. 4, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. $8. — Vanessa Salvia
Not So Hard On the Ears
Seattle has often been a hub for talented musicians and artists to join, gather influences and produce original results. With the rise of indie music over the last few years, many of these artists have become lost in a sea of names, making it hard to find a band that displays noticeable influences while still maintaining a solid level of originality. The Soft Hills, however, is one Seattle group that achieves this feat seamlessly.
Radiohead’s ambience, Bread’s guitars, a splash of Flaming Lips’ rhythm and some fabulous songwriting skills add up (remarkably) to create that poppy, indie sound that has managed to enchant music lovers and hipsters. The Soft Hills’ second release, Noruz, shows improvement from their older songs in most facets. The songwriting, instrumentation and production are tuned more finely, showing off the experience the group has gained since their debut release. Even fans of the “slop-rock” scene — which to most would include groups like Pavement and Sonic Youth — could find comfort in frontman Garrett Hobba’s vocals, which at times possess a jittery feel not unlike those found with fellow Seattle rockers Girls.
I guess what we’ve learned from all this is that leaving multiple variables open to influence can create a single outcome that isn’t half bad. And for those like me who don’t really understand math: The Soft Hills prove to be a smorgasbord of influences and originality, so don’t be surprised if you hear some familiar sounds shine through. The Soft Hills and The Stagger and Sway play at 9 pm Sunday, Sept. 5, at Cozmic Pizza. $5. — Andy Valentine