Buffalo Tom: A-Sides from Buffalo Tom (1988 to 1999)

[21 August 2000]

By Wes Long

The notion that Goo Goo Dolls, Third Eye Blind, Matchbox 20 and The Wallflowers can achieve Brontosaurus-heavy radio rotation while Buffalo Tom remain in the shadows of the impotent broadcasting towers is mind-numbing. I mean, come on, they’ve got all the ingredients those bands have, except this time around they’ve been prepared by a master chef who’s added a heaping helping of an all important spice called feel. This little band is equally capable of creating full throttle hard on power-chord frenzy as well as gritty ballads with lyrics as sensitive as the exposed root in your bicuspid.

Sounding like a bar band fronted by an anxiously melancholic whiskey-fueled Alex Chilton, Buffalo Tom tear at you with how could they have missed singles like “Summer, Taillights Fade” and “Mineral.” These songs find the band at their non-saccharine Norman Rockwell inspired lyrical best, tunes easily worthy of the John Fogerty Americana award if there was such a thing.

“Kitchen Door” and “Tangerine” find the band in an earnestly silly Evan Dando (Lemonheads) mood, while “Postcard” comes off not unlike what you’d get if you hijacked Jakob Dylan from the Wallflowers and replaced him with Rob Thomas and a bit of emotion.

The raucous “Birdbrain” finds the band leaning in a Collective Soul meets X type slant, with kick-the-door-down guitars and fevered vocals guaranteed to get you off your ass and moving somewhere quickly. That is once you’ve ceased furiously pumping your head up and down and engaging in some sort of tribal pogo-dance around your living room.

This disc has 18 very good songs on it; all of them singles from the 11-year life span of this wildly under-appreciated band. There are informative liner notes here for the die-hard fan and a treasure trove of new gems for the uninitiated

So why aren’t our ears being bombarded by the radio airwaves of this powerhouse trio? That’s a damn good question. But, you know what? I don’t recall hearing the Replacements on the radio much either, and Buffalo Tom has more in common with them than they do any of the aforementioned radio friendly bands. They possess the unique ability to apply just enough polish to make their music accessible while maintaining all the character-filled crevices that never fail to interest.

Elvis Costello pressed his tongue just as hard as he could in his cheek and sang “radio is a sound salvation, radio is cleaning up the nation,” and he was dead on. Radio is a wasteland, buy this disc.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/buffalotom-asides/