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Birdbrain

Buffalo Tom

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Album Review

From the first notes of Buffalo Tom's second album, Birdbrain, it was clear the band had done more than their share of growing up since their self-titled debut, which had come out the year before. The title cut leaps out of the gate with a tight snap that leaves anything on the first album in the dust; drummer Tom Maginnis and bassist Chris Colbourn sound far tighter and more unified as a rhythm section, and guitarist and vocalist Bill Janovitz reveals a taut, slashing authority that was quite a change from the sloppy, sometimes meandering sound he'd summoned up his first time at bat. Just as roadwork had firmed up Buffalo Tom's sound, their songwriting was also steadily improving; the ultra-catchy "Birdbrain" sounded like it could have been a hit single in some alternate universe, while "Guy Who Is Me" and "Crawl" indicated they were learning to work better with trickier structures, and "Enemy" and "Skeleton Key" prove they could slow down effectively and communicate something other than a rant. While the band was still working the last vestiges of their clear Dinosaur Jr. influence at this point (J Mascis was in the producer's chair once again for this set), Birdbrain made it clear Buffalo Tom was far more than just Dino Jr.'s little brother band. The CD adds a nice acoustic cover of "Heaven" by the Psychedelic Furs as a bonus — yet another touch you would never have expected judging from their debut.

Biography

Formed: 1986 in Boston, MA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

When they released their first album in 1989, the Boston-based trio Buffalo Tom were written off as Dinosaur Jr. junior. Admittedly, their debut was in debt to J Mascis' thundering guitar and folk-tinged songs and it didn't help that Mascis produced the record, either. Over time, Buffalo Tom stripped away their grungier influences and developed into a straight-ahead rock group of the early '90s, capable of throttling rockers and beautiful ballads. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Bill Janovitz, bassist/vocalist...
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Birdbrain, Buffalo Tom
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