Review by LarryG|
3 stars out of 4
Buffalo Tom are the quintessential college radio band, making
music with catchy tunes, jangly guitars and a little anguish in their
lyrics. They obviously owe a lot to R.E.M. but their music is
appealing in its own right. Buffalo Tom became college radio stars
with Let Me Come Over and its singles, the moving emotional ballad
Tailights Fade and the fun, raucous rocker Velvet Roof. Big Red Letter
was a further step forward with a fuller sound provided by producers
the Robb brothers.
Big Red Letter Day is filled with likable, energetic rock.
You've probably heard Big Red Letter Day's Sodajerk used as background
music for TV commercials. Bill Janovitz' slicing guitar is very
appealing and the song has an exhilarating feel. While it's about
Janovitz' troubled feelings towards an ex-girlfriend, Tree House has
Janovitz' energetic singing and guitar playing and a great driving
beat. It finishes on an especially ecstatic note with Maxine and Julia
Waters' uplifting backing vocals, singing "seasons change." Janowitz'
gritty, rough vocals and tough and unshowy but melodic guitar propel a
number of buoyant rockers: Latest Monkey, Dry Land and Suppose.
The slow songs on Big Red Letter Day also work. Sometimes the
band is a little too serious but the seriousness is youthful,
searching and thoughtful, not pretentious. I'm Allowed is a heartfelt
ballad from Janovitz. Bass player Chris Colbourn has a plainer voice
than Janovitz but he has a sincere, honest charm. He nearly stole the
show on Buffalo Tom's next record, Sleepy Eyed, with his fun Kitchen
Door and sad Twenty Points. On Big Red Letter Day, Colbourn has two
likable turns on lead vocals. Late at Night, apparently about trying
to keep sad thoughts about a woman out of his bedroom, is charmingly
awkward. You can picture Colbourn writing the simple song, focusing on
its basic, clear chord changes.
Buffalo Tom can sometimes be a little too earnest but the songs
are good and well played. The band is serious about constructing their
songs but the results are usually very enjoyable.