On Youth and Young Manhood (With Avi Buffalo)

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Arguably, one of the best things about listening to indie rock is finding fresh talent. Oklahomans will remember such pleasures as watching Arcade Fire rock for the sake of their own heart fire at the Conservatory. Though she’s still very approachable, I enjoyed super pro Samantha Crain’s early sets at Galileo’s …

What I have in my ears right is probably the best “young” thing I’ve heard all year. Bob Dylan once gave a speech to a group of chaste civil liberties people about how he’d been working his whole life to be young, and now that he was young he wanted to stay young. And young, young, young. Slur, slur, slur. He loved being irresponsible. He was an artist. Why else would the American Shakespeare put so much stock in this business of being young?

I’m pretty sure it’s because of sea salty assured songs likes this.

Avi Buffalo, the Long Beach, California quartet, has members who have just left high school and they are already opening for Modest Mouse. That connection is not so coincidental to me. For one, we are all human. If you look at the early picture of Isaac you’ll see the same kind of fearless fresh faced confusion that you get with recent press shots of Avi Buffalo’s nucleus, Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg , and his band, two of whom I believe have already left—which right there tells us what kind of a miracle this lark of a record is. It really was high school kids making an album as fast as they could (though Isenberg has been writing since his sophomore year). That is to say, this is one of the purest things that can happen in rock music. That fantastic first accident.

The melodies are sweet (the piano in the ballad “Jessica” sounds like The Soft Bulletin), they are tender and reminiscent of all your favorite Shins songs, in ways that have been noted. They have more shambles, though, in a way I like. His sometimes thinny-harsh vocal delivery bears something of a kid cousin’s relationship to Isaac Brock’s unkempt style. That sort of careening carelessness introduces room for some gloriously adolescent lyrics: “ where’s your dirty mind? You left that in your 8th grade suit…what happened to love in its first stage? We left that when we wanted more/ and tell me what should be in store?/ be adventurous show us what you are made of, yeah”

That lyric, actually sung by one of the girls, encapsulates the heroic spirit of the album. And when it comes to reviewing albums, I think finding elements like that are more important in assessing whether a band is going to keep hitting us with the goods, or whether the album itself has mastered form or whatever. That spirit, and also a sort of built-in wisdom. “All things you’re learnin, I’ve been knowin’ since my childhood.” What!? Avi, later, is talking about how people change when love goes sour. He talks about experience as if he was at least…26. This is something Isaac had too, at a young age. That knowing what’s upnesss.

There is one thing on this album that’s pretty much perfect, and that is the ostensible love song. 2:34 into “Remember the Last Time”, Avi repeats and repeats, “I’ve never written a love song, I’ve never written a love song, I’ve never written a love song…but I will for you.” And then there’s this glistening, burning full-band jam out that’s absolutely directed at a sort of tempestuous, volatile and joyous human center. It lasts about 4 minutes. In the words of Brock: it sparkles, shimmers, shines. These are not bitter buffalo. This a moment to be locked into.

The amateurishness that perhaps marks some of the lyrics on the record are completely washed away at the end of the album, as if making way for more serious efforts to come. It’s hard though to imagine anything more pointed than this burning song. Acknowledging that in the post-post-post modern age, and in rock music, there’s really not much more than can be said with a love song, the love song is the guitar meditation, the tribute. I can’t say anything to you that could do justice, but maybe this can… Words are very cleverly, rendered mute, which is a really beautiful sentiment. … It starts with surfer dotted skyline chimes, and drums and runs along to some team coo-ing, which then give way to the guitar melt down. There are a million jam-outs out there. One feature which characterizes, say, a Grateful Dead jam-out, seems to be laziness and directionlessness. So they all sound the same. These guys sound like they need to get somewhere fast. I think this quality is indie rock’s saving grace. Just when I think all of it is fashion, Ariel Pink, and narcotic web, Nico rip-off zombie proliferating I hear something like this, which completely catches all of us first listeners to Avi’s record off guard when we hear it. He ferrets, scratches, and gnarls …. images of pagans burning fire and screaming, expressing something mysterious to the sky that there are really no words for. The drums are trying to keep up. Then the ethereal chimes come back, and no one in the band is losing any energy still.

We hear the guitars fall as if they have fallen over, spent after the marathon. We feel like we are in the studio too. We saw this band before they made it.

In addition to sounding like the summer, they sound brave. And naïve. And all those other things crazy drunk Dylan thought about the virtues of youth.

Have a listen here: http://youtu.be/evu_MqAZpC0

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