Stephen Bishop Does Not Reside Here
Hoo boy. Well, kids it’s time to review one of those pop rock records that seems to attract a bit of critical attention, but for the most part remains static and stale. Honestly, you’d think by now that some music critics would stop frothing at the mouth just because a once-great music Joe’s name is tied into a new band’s work. This time the honor goes to Television’s Fred Smith who produced Bubble’s first full-length release Bash Bish.
See, you’re supposed to be in the know here and remember that Bubble released a self-titled EP back in 1995 that made a few ripples thanks to a cover of “Pure Imagination” from the Willy Wonka movie that we have all come to know and love. Frankly, an endeavor such as that already had me cringing before I ever laid ears on Bubble’s music. That seemed like a cute college rock kinda thing to do. Get the novelty nod and in turn sell a few copies of yer record. It must have worked, because when Bash Bish was released just recently, some of the old fans in the press rallied ‘round and swung some more accolades towards the band. Well friends, I’m not here to do that because I got to hear Bubble with a fresh set of ears and an oblivious knowledge about their prior release before acquiring their latest.
Bubble hails from New York and is comprised of Mark Humble on guitar and vocals, Matt Lindsey on bass and vocals, Tom DeVito on drums, and Jagoda on percussion. I dunno why Bubble wants to “Bash Bish” so quickly, because Foster’s voice sounds just like a teenage Stephen Bishop. Hmph! But aside from that, the band strives to cover as many pop rock bases as it can and still appeal to a wide listening audience. Unfortunately for them, such a band has already taken control. That band is Fastball, and I can’t help but hear echoes (albeit weak echoes) of them in Bubble’s sound.
In fact, certain vocal phrasings and chord changes in “Scary Monster” sound way too much like “Slow Drag” from All the Pain Money Can Buy. On top of that, the song goes on…and on…and on for way too long. The same can be said for “Be Here”, a slow little tune that makes you want to weep in your copy of The Prophet and cuppa caw-fee (thank you, Frank Zappa). And while some groovy pop bands can really carry a tune by singing “ba ba bas” or “tra la las” or some other variation of phonetic melody, the example of this that crops up in “Can’t Slow Down” brings that annoying cute factor into play.
Some happy press person said that “Tell Me What You Want” was “Knack-ish” but I can’t find an ounce of Doug Fieger in there at all. Yes, it has the jaunty power chord thing going on, but the Knack was about so much more than the empty energy unleashed here. Quite simply, Bash Bish is plain vanilla college/pop rock that’s been done dozens of times before by other indie label kids. That being said, there are a couple of pleasurable moments lurking about “Nothing” and “Tidal Wave”, but not enough to make you sit up and take notice of Bubble’s music intensity (I jest, of course).
The rest of the album plays out the same. It’s not enough to be a pop rock darling anymore. You have to have the honest chops to back it up. And while I am a fanatic of the genre, Bash Bish does nothing for me but kill a half hour as background music, and even then I might choose something a bit more edgy like Metal Machine Music if I’m just killing time. Bubble falls into that same pit of pop rock that so many other “new” bands find themselves. One that thinks it’s still 1992. Well, it isn’t. And so I will now go and enjoy Stephen Bishop’s Red Cab to Manhattan LP for the billionth time. Bash Bish indeed.
// Notes from the Road
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