Bishop Allen- Grrr…(2009) Dead Oceans, by Adam

Posted: October 24, 2009 by Adam in Album Reviews
Tags: , , ,

grrrGrrr… is the third LP from Brooklyn band Bishop Allen, lead by central members Justin Rice and Christian Rudder. The band, formed in 2003, have released two other full length albums (Charm School and The Broken String), as well as the EP project, in which the band released an EP every month for a year.

Grrr… is the follow up to The Broken String which was released in 2007, the minor..ish success of that album, which saw the band featured in the film Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (in which they make a brief cameo) and on a Sony advert, has not gone to their heads. For Grrr… the band has managed to avoid falling into the classic pitfalls of overproduction (Muse) or incredible self-indulgence (The Decemberists). Instead the album is stripped down, for Bishop Allen its like the infamous ‘Wall of Sound’, was never invented, but the album doesn’t suffer as a result. In fact it’s probably what helps to set it aside from so much similar music that’s around at the moment. For example, the ‘sound’ of Bishop Allen isn’t too far from Sufjan Stevens (check out the new song on this blog) but unlike Sufjan’s new songs it’s not plagued by clicks and whirs. Now I like a good click and whir (you can make that sexual if you want, it just means you are a bit of a pervert), but its kind of refreshing to hear someone rely solely on the song writing, which is excellent on this record.

Rice’s voice is consistent throughout the album and never bores, which is unusual as his voice is a bit overly emotional and weedy but it seems to work well here. I have to admit to being a bit of a fan of Rice as I recently saw him in the film Harmony and Me, where he played the lead character Harmony brilliantly. The film revolves around the central characters break-up with a girl and involves song writing inflicted with some of most blunt and dry comedy I have seen.

Normally at this point I would suggest highlight songs but for this album it’s probably a shorter list if I say that the only two songs I don’t like are ‘Rooftop Brawl’ and ‘The Magpie’, the other eleven songs are all great.

If I had one criticism of the album it would be that it is a bit too long, although the vast majority of the songs are excellent, it’s almost as if it is too much to take! I really think that most albums would benefit from being a maximum of 10 songs long, 8 or 9 is probably better. I’m not sure why this is but some of my favourite albums are shorter rather than longer.

In short (see what I did there) get a hold of Grrr…, it won’t disappoint and shows that sometimes it’s nice to go back to basics.


If you liked this you might also like; Sufjan Stevens, Kimya Dawson and Sin Fang Bous


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