Na Na Na
DIY Released/Distro. By Randex Communications
Review by Kent Manthie
Buxter Hoot’n, the fiercely independent, San Francisco-based quintet, anchored by two brothers, Vince and Jim DeWald, has been making underground rumblings for some time now. Described by various music press outfits (Relix, Bay Guardian and Americana Review to name just a few) have described their music as “indie-Americana”, “Psychedelic Americana”, etc. –with the emphasis being on the “Americana” bent. Which is fitting, since these days, the term “indie” is so far-flung and is really a state of mind, not a genre in itself, that it requires a more descriptive adjective to either fit in a box or, in the case where the artist/band is so iconoclastic they don’t fit in anyone’s idea of a “box” or “label” or what-have-you. That’s when you file under “misc.” or “crazy-axiom-starters, ahead of their time” (sometimes a decade or two depending on what their deal is).
Well, suffice it to say, Buxter Hoot’n is good but they’re not so far out as to have a “box” all to themselves. With their own special songwriting abilities alongside the production talents of “Grammy Nominated” (I don’t know whether that’s supposed to be a self-promotion or a self-effacement) producer, Greg Magers, Buxter Hoot’n set out to make this swiftly running EP, kind of like a handful of precious sands through ones fingers – once your hands are emptied, the six-songs on this brilliant album are gone just like that (sound of fingers snapping)…
Their latest, a six-song EP that came out last month (Sept. 4), entitled Na Na Na, continues the band’s “Cosmic American” sound with a couple parts psychedelia and what a reviewer (mis) construes as “progressive rock” – well, nice try, but when I (or many) people think of progressive rock we think of bands such as King Crimson, the old, real Yes (from their 1968 debut-ending with 1979’s Drama-their reunion doesn’t count for anything), Brian Eno, Soft Machine, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Faust, Can & Neu. But when it comes to neo-psychedelia – the best way I can describe it is as 1960s-inspired music without all the haze of drugs and the chaotic times thrown in, which isn’t to say that I’m knocking Buxter at all – no, they have a very interesting sound all to themselves (just don’t call it “progressive rock”, though)
With only six songs on Na Na Na, it took me a few listens, playing it straight through from start to finish it, in order to form a coherent opinion of it and to be able to understand where they’re coming from as well as the fact that the more you listen to something, the more that you absorb. For instance, on the opening cut, which happens to be the title track, there is a very catchy chorus to it. “Na Na Na” indeed! The verses are quiet, melancholy, and are sung with a groovy harmony that includes dual vocalists, Vince DeWald and Melissa Merrill. For curiosity’s sake, the band is rounded out by bassist Jim DeWald, fiddler/guitarist, Ben Andrews and drummer Jeremy Shanok.
The second tune, “Kids These Days” is punctuated by a raucous jam solo by Ben Andrews and Vince D, who also plays guitar – the violin and the guitar complement each other nicely and the fieriness of Ben’s fiddle really screeches, screams and cries. This is no surprise for any hardcore Zappa fan, one who’s listened to Hot Rats a lot and Overnite Sensation, both which feature some genius guitar work by Zappa and violin playing by both Jean-Luc Ponty and Sugarcane Harris, who just tears it up alongside Frank on the masterpiece, “It Must Be a Camel”.
Anyway, there’s more too – “Fake Heart Attack”, which despite its similarity to “chick-pop”, actually branches out more and gives you a big, fat surprise, in that it’s not “chick rock” but a well-crafted piece of music – it only gives off a faint air of pop-surprise – but the surprise is that instead of skeptically skipping over it, something in the music keeps you mentally paralyzed and you stay tuned to it just long enough to realize that – “hey man, there’s something to this!” –
Next up comes a ballad of sorts, “Haunted House” – not a creepy , eerie goth tune, but more of a metaphorical reflection of a collection of memories that don’t forget and keep remembering all the good as well as the bad and that which need not be thought of again, I’m sure everyone knows someone like this. The main line to this tune goes like this: “Your mind is like a haunted house/Something stirring in the air here/the door opens up and you see yourself/Through the cobwebs that hang like decades still around/You’re on the ground…” and so on – kind of a wandering through the mind of one’s grandma or aunt or old family secret keeper, what-have-you. Whatever it is that they are actually getting at there is a nice poetic touch about it.
This year marks Buxter Hoot’n’s seventh year together, with the original lineup intact and all. Earlier this year the band got the chance to play to a national audience, when they appeared on NPR, on that radio network’s syndicated, Sedge Thompson’s West Coast Live. Plus, the band’s 2011 eponymously titled album was a milestone of sorts for the band: one of that album’s songs “Blue Night” propelled the band to a plethora of featured album, artist categories and charts on the indie scene with even some airplay on over 200 stations around the US.
They seem to have a spark in their sound that seems like it’s fresh and just building up to what is sure to be there best work yet. But for those of you who are still curious and/or just want to give Buxter a listen to see how they fit into the swing of things then I would suggest you check out their website: www.buxterhootn.com, on which you can not only read about the band at more length and get photos, etc. of the members, but there is also a treat for fans and potential fans out there – a number of various songs from the new release is up for grabs as a free download – so, track ‘em down if you want to listen before you invest. But, please, since we’re talking about a DIY band (who is lucky enough to have Randex Communications supporting their effort by entering into a distribution deal with them, so as to reach as much America as possible (thanks, Randy!)
Anyway, check out the site, download the tunes and support your local indie band – shun the corporate- Nazi-mafia-pederast machine. You’ll be glad you did!! Plus your money will be MUCH more appreciated by a few people at one small label instead of thousands upon thousands of faceless, nameless number-people who don’t even matter in the long run, that is, to their companies. Clean your consciences out by going indie and stop listening to Clear Channel!!! -KM.