Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Music Review: Bottomless Pit - Blood Under the Bridge

Alright, full disclosure, this record is being floated a handicap of at least one and a half stars right out of the gate for its incredible guitar tone. This is some seriously hollowed-out, mid-90s Touch & Go production here, and if I didn’t know better I’d assume that Steve Albini had engineered it. That shouldn’t come as much of a shock, though, as Bottomless Pit’s indie cred runs pretty deep. Formed by guitarists Andy Cohen and Tim Midgett after the demise of the late, lamented Silkworm (T&G vets themselves), Bottomless Pit quietly released their debut album, Hammer of the Gods, in 2007 amidst a flurry of talk about a handful bands—Dinosaur Jr. and Les Savy Fav in particular—who seemed to be attempting to resurrect 90s indie-rock for a new generation of blog-dependent listeners. But despite their best efforts via album titles and band moniker to pass themselves off as some sort of demon-eyed metal act, Bottomless Pit continue to embody this sound as effortlessly and beautifully as any other veteran act from the day. Their new album, Blood Under the Bridge, compacts a lot of the ideas from the debut—while thankfully carrying over that wonderfully nostalgic production sense—and as a result it hits more immediately for those indie-rock fans weary of the direction their genre has taken as the scene has been monopolized and the product commoditized.

Accounting for the remainder of that rating are the songs themselves, which is always nice, and they run pretty evenly from pretty and spare to taut and aggressive. The disparity between the two is a bit more pronounced than on the debut though, and as a result the best songs stick out more or less immediately. The album’s third track, “Summerwind”, is the first truly muscular cut, and it finds its counterpart with the following song “Late”, as well as late album standouts “Is It a Ditch” and the stunning closer “38 Souls”, all of which seem to be building on the focused assault of Hammer highlight “Dog Tag”. These tracks, while all conveniently falling under the snarling guitar-rock banner, do a great job of playing up the contrasts between Cohen and Midgett’s vocals—the former blunt and anthemic, the latter still unassuming and frequently touching, not unlike their days in Silkworm, though Midgett still manages to provide the record’s single best fist-pumping bridge when he derides, to close out the aforementioned “Late”, “So many fuckers in this world/To line up/And trade for you”.

Stacking the records up side by side, I’d still have to give Hammer of the Gods the slight advantage though, mainly because some of the mellower moments on this record, when coupled with the newly constricted structures, can result in some ill-defined and ultimately slight tracks. “Rhinelander” certainly falls under this distinction, as does “Q.E.D.”, perhaps not coincidentally sequenced as the second and penultimate tracks respectively. Tellingly, the one slow-burning song that materializes fully formed—patiently escalating opener “Winterwind”—is also the one that most obviously works from the same structural template as Hammer of the Gods. For the most part, however, the album trades in tight jabs and satisfying moments of catharsis. The record I keep wanting to compare it to—though not because of any overt sonic similarity mind you—is Completely Removed by Medications, another band of indie lifers who just this year wound their sound up into their tightest display of post-punk guitar pop yet. And like that record, Blood Under the Bridge feels natural, nostalgic and totally lived in. We could all use a little comfort food sometimes. [74/100] [Published: 08.18.10]

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