Like a breath of fresh air, Blume’s Low Glider Bus Rider is a welcome entry into the indie pop scene. Definitely original and full of all kinds of musical ideas, the three piece band (with Joel Blum on vocals, guitar mandolin, and jaw harp, Jill Bartyzal on fretless bass and backing vocals, and B.T. on drums) does things their way with a fun and loose execution that is at once completely engaging. Imagine if you will what it would sound like if Soul Coughing had gotten together with G. Love and Special Sauce during both of the bands’ best years and added some precocious boho kids into the mix. That’s the best description I can give to Blume’s music. Lots of eclectic vibes and freaky rhythms abound as Joel leads his group into new territories.
The first song on the album, “You Me & The Dirt” introduces the band with a stunning abstract clarity. Acoustic guitars and mandolins open the piece, along with some completely unexpected (but very cool) vinyl scratches. And then comes Blum’s shaky intonations that wax poetically and rhythmically. “My normalcy phobias are catapulting me”, he declares with no trace of irony. Yes, Blume represents the real hipsters down in the village, not the ones grasping for individuality in the food courts of the malls of the world.
The delicate “Flying” is—I hate to say it, but it’s true—light and breezy and contains a terrific bridge that sounds like an entirely different song that got slotted into the middle. It’s the kind of acoustic-electric sound that reaps millions for bands like Sugar Ray. But here, the mix is original and believable. In Sugar Ray’s land, the smooth ballad has caused the band to enter a realm of sameness and predictability. But Joel Blum is a wonderful singer and storyteller and can work a sweet hook and a line like you wouldn’t believe. A definite early highlight of the album.
“Jive Turkey” features more scratches, electric guitar hooks and acoustic rhythms with jaw harp twangs and Blum’s take on rap. All told, each ingredient fits perfectly with each other as a muted trumpet waxes jazzy and alone and “Yo, check this out man” samples are sprinkled throughout. “My nose drips and the rain drops / I’m hangin’ with the kids in the cowboy shops / I’m a low glider bus rider / I’m lickin’ the bottom of my piggy bank clean / But it’s so serene to go down the river / In my raft, check out my home made raft!” Cool and calculated, Blume certainly have it all going on.
Other highlights include the cover of “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?” and the bebop jazz-electro-warp of “Road Is the Mode” which recalls the sound of the Jody Grind from years past. “Cabin Fever” does the hot jazz thing that once endeared the Squirrel Nut Zippers to everyone in the land, but once again Blume puts their own spin on it that has less to do with horns and more with madcap harmonies and speedy execution. Indeed, it should be noted that Jill Bartyzal’s quick bass work is something to highly admire. And for what it’s worth, the band even cools it down to play it “straight” for the direct and warm “Separation”.
Low Glider Bus Rider also features guest appearances by Bob Egan (Wilco) and Phil Spirito (Rex, Orso). Egan’s pedal steel work adds another fine angle to Blume’s sound, as does Spirito’s banjo picking. To say the least, this band is unlike most you may have heard. It might not be to everyone’s taste, but for those who like to see a band pull out the stops and reinvent the wheel, you can’t do any better than Blume and their unique blend of everything considered cool. Top notch in all areas, Low Glider Bus Rider is one of a kind and then some.
// Notes from the Road
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