REVIEW: Bidiniband – In The Rock Hall

I’m done my series of Maiden reviews, so Aaron has challenged me to get out of my comfort zone.  Together, we will be reviewing some of the albums he bought in Toronto during Record Store Excursion 2012.  I’ve never heard any of these albums before, in fact I know almost nothing about most of these bands.  Here’s part 1.  Enjoy. (?)

Look for another Bidini feature on January 25.

Check out Aaron’s take here:

BIDINIBAND – In The Rock Hall

bidiniband

BIDINIBAND – In The Rock Hall

I know nothing about Dave Bidini, I know nothing about this band, and I know nothing about this album.  I didn’t cheat by reading up on them, or reading other reviews.  I truly went into In The Rock Hall blindly with open ears.

It’s obvious these guys don’t give a crap about commercial songwriting.  Anything considered standard, radio-friendly, or easy is tossed out the window in short order.  The songs twist and turn through different, sometimes contradictory sounding sections.  It sounds like it was painstakingly composed, piece by piece.  This is all good — I like a challenging listen.  It’s all done with a wink and a smile.  They sound like they’d be very loud, live.  It’s also obvious they love their ganja, as the subject comes up more than once!

The guitar work is striking.  Like I said, I didn’t do any cheating to learn more about this album, so I have no idea who the guitar player is, but he or she has weaved together some unorthodox hooks.  Riffs and melodies strike you from the speakers, demanding that you pay attention!

“I Wanna Go To Yemen” crosses acoustic riffing, latin-sounding clapping, unusual beats and electric guitars with some pretty funny lyrics:

I wanna go to Yemen,
I wanna go with you,
We’ll get high in the morning,
And in the afternoon

It defies categorization, which is a good thing.  I’m not too keen on the singer’s flat vocals, I’m hoping they will grow on me.  It reminds me of Pavement, a band I’m not too into.  But it demanded a second listen, on which it grew further.

“On Camoragh Lake” starts with annoying beeps and gratuitous “fucks”.  It’s pretty tuneless until you get to the chorus, which features some nice electric chords and female backing vocals.  The song takes a turn around the 2 minute mark, getting a bit more passionate and noisy.  It has some guitar squeaking that would make both Joe Satriani and Tom Morello happy.  This annoying song gets more and more catchy as it goes on.  It grows on you, with more listens.

Third is “Big Men Go Fast on the Water” (well, it was true for Vince Neil)!  This is the most melodic and straightforward tune thus far, very enjoyable.  This is the first song I can say I truly enjoyed from start to finish on first listen.

Another great tune follows, the passionate “Last of the Big Dead Things”.  This dark, acoustic, beautiful tune was instantaneous.  But just when you think you know what’s going to happen next, they go into a shouted section at 3 minutes, and then a quiet whisper.

“Needle Beach / Outdoor Motors” has a vague (but only vague) surf-rock sound, but it’s more distorted and twisty/turny than that.  I’m not sure why the band seems to be obsessed with water themes, but hey, it’s all good.  This one’s a bit too odd to get on first listen, but it does hit a catchy vocal part towards the end.

Better is “Hey Paul and Donna”, a nice acoustic one with a great chorus.  “Hey Paul and Donna, I’m glad you took the train to Taranna!”  That’s Toronto, for those who don’t know!  It has a vintage 1960’s sound, and is probably the simplest, instantly catchy song on the album.

“Popcorn” features some intricate catchy guitar licks.  It’s also a pretty simple catchy tune, the melody doesn’t do much for me, but that guitar part is truly great.  I wish I could play that effortlessly.  At 2:40 it takes another twist, with female vocals, almost sounding Christmas-carol-y.

Distorted robot vocals usher in “The Best Thing About The 80’s Was You”, complete with apropos drum programs.  If you like 80’s music, this is a whimsical homage.  If you don’t, like me, this one built for the skip button.  It’s all tongue in cheek, but it’s not for me.  “‘The Final Countdown’, the 80’s was you!”

There’s nothing simple about “Eunoia”, a 10 minute monster.  It starts as a poem, with Tom Waits-esque backing music and noise.  Then it goes into some nice guitar chords and understated vocal melody.  It’s powerful and melodic.  As you can imagine, it has multiple sections, each with some incredible guitar work, demanding that I pay attention.  Just when I’m getting tired of one section, it twists into something else.

Up next is the percussive “Earth (Revisited)”, a humourous retelling of human history.  It’s anchored by relentless drumming, and plenty of ooh’s and ahh’s.

The album closes with another long one, the title track, “In The Rock Hall”.  Somewhat obviously, this one is about the Hall of Fame in Cleveland, but with a tongue in cheek.  The lyrics are amusing, musically I felt like we’d already visited this territory.

Coming up with a simple rating is not easy.  One cannot overlook the chops, the unorthodox stylings, the variety, and the refusal to keep things simple.  On the other hand, I found the ooh’s, ahh’s, and la-la-la’s tiring, as well as the perpetually flat lead vocals.  I don’t know how often I’d want to come back to this one.  Striking a balance, I’ll rate In The Rock Hall:

3/5 stars

MIKE AND AARON GO TO TORONTO

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8 comments

  1. Wow … I was shocked when I saw you were reviewing this album. Did a double take to be honest. I am very curious to hear this. I love Dave Bidini. The Rheostatics are the band/artist I have seen the most live of any other band … ever. Met him a few times and he is a fascinating guy. Any Canadian Rock fan (as well as anywhere else) needs to read his book On A Cold Road. It contains quotes from Canadian Rock icons about being on tour from such names as Kim Mitchell, Rik Emmett, Frank Soda et al. Oh MIke you so need to read that book. As well, Whale Music is one of my favorite albums of all time (in which you will all read about soon). Good review. Note: Geddy Lee has the movie rights for Bidini’s book Baseballissimo and I believe that movie is being made with Jay Baruchel or that is in the plans atleast.

    In concert, The Rheostatics swung for the fences. This made for a couple of “miss” shows that were still fascinating, but scattered. But when they connected, there was nothing like a Rheostatics show. Glad you reviewed this. Take the leap into the Rheostatics world next. Would love to see you review Whale Music. (Make sure you review the Whale Music album, as opposed to the Whale Music movie soundtrack.

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  2. “a challenging listen. It’s all done with a wink and a smile.” – Reading that, I was thinking, ‘that sounds like Pavement’ – and sure enough you made the reference later! I think the flat vocals in Stephen Malkmus’ case may be an acquired taste. At first obnoxious, but then the appeal grows to where now it’s the vocals I look forward to the most.

    Nice thorough review (and I’ll second the comment about checking out the Rheostatics).

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    1. I grew on me in the second listen. But I’m gonna check out that other Bidini first! Since I have no idea what it will be like (and you’re not gonna spoil it for me) it will be a surprise.

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