Tuesday, December 11, 2012

REVIEW: The Bixby Knolls - Near And Undear

Bixby Knolls is an LA-based heavy rock band led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Curt Barlage and features the talents of drummer Sammy Fayed, bassist Christian Morales and guitarist Cesar Saez De Nanclares. It's LA glam rock, and Near & Undear features some rock influences any soul-loving hard rock band would be proud to claim: Roxy Music, The Four Tops, The Clash, Joy Division, The Stones, New York Dolls, Primal Scream... as lead man Barlage claims: “Our record reminds us of Bobby Gillespie and Joe Strummer in a fist fight.” Sometimes you can hear a band and guess what's in their record collection. If a band is willing to tell you up front about their record collection, what's left but to assess whether they did it justice?

Lead track "Supervised War" is heavy as can be, all tribal drumbeat, glam noise guitar and disaffected vocals. Next up is "Through The Cracks" (available for download here) - a slow-burning song with about 2:00 of drums and chanted vocals with a couple of savage guitar breaks:

"It's All A Lie" is a soul/psych/fuzz workout, and "Runnin' And Runnin'" (in my estimation, the best song on the record) juxtaposes a ridiculously catchy Four Tops drum/bass line and soulful Barlage vocal with another hypnotic fuzzy guitar lead. This is some very fun music, which leads to the obvious question, how would this come across live? By way of answer, here's a video of "Running And Running":

"Reina Del Mezcal" brings in some Tex-Mex organ, but again it's backing very strong fuzzy lead guitar and Barlage's R&B-meets-glam vocals... as well as several changes in tempo. "Waking Up The World" and album closer "Want It All" turn up the punk influences - calling to mind New York Dolls as well as Jim Carroll Band (remember them?). "Autumn Will Fall" is a little more straightforward rock song with, again, plenty of good guitar work, perhaps even a bit of jangle.

Over the course of the record, the band plays with these and other influences, always with Barlage's strong vocals up front, a rock-solid rhythm section of Fayed and Morales, and slashing riffs from Saez De Nanclares and Barlage. In terms of the completeness of their self-proclaimed list of influences, I'd say they could proudly add Alejandro Escovedo (especially in light of his side projects Buick McKane and The Nuns) It's an exhilarating journey over the course of 11 songs that ensures The Bixby Knolls will be worth keeping an eye on.

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