Bluebottle Kiss: Doubt Seeds

Dan Raper

If you're ready to put in the effort to understand and really engage with this music, its depth can be rewarding indeed.

Bluebottle Kiss

Doubt Seeds

Label: Nonzero
Australia release date: 2006-07-18
US Release Date: Available as import
UK Release Date: Available as import

Bluebottle Kiss has gained something of a reputation for being perennially around, but not quite reaching what seemed like its full potential. The band careened between ferocious, guitar-fueled atonality and tender, dreamlike ballads, hitting a wide range of genres and musical cues between its 1996 debut, Higher Up the Firetrails, and its fifth studio album, 2003's Come Across. Through it all, there were a few haunting tunes, like "Everything Begins and Ends at Exactly the Right Time" and "Gangsterland", but no continued sense of evolution.

But this new double album has a story. Bluebottle Kiss has historically skipped across genres so nimbly -- from basic indie rock to jazz, punk, folk and country -- that albums can sound almost like compilations of different bands. Doubt Seeds is Jamie Hutchings' response, an attempt to explain his influences by taking an idea from a composition by John Coltrane, say, or Tom Waits, and building it into a new, entirely Bluebottle Kiss composition.

As an example: "Miranda", a short track that comes near the end of the second disc, is a shimmering tremolo chant, with high, wordless female choir and jumbled brass. Though it sounds completely different, the whole thing's a tribute to the modal improvisation at the base of Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue.

Elsewhere, the transformation is more effective in theory than in practice. The riff from the album opener is taken from the Stooges' song "TV Eye"; the track is conceived as an exploration of the influence that band has had on Bluebottle Kiss' music, evoking a rock / jazz clash chaos in a new context. The song itself is fine, but without this explanation you wouldn't listen to it twice. So here's the problem: Academic investigation of influence is admirable, sure, but if the result fails to be compelling as a song, then the experiment's failed.

This kind of treatment is given, throughout the album, to songs of Sonic Youth, Joy Division, Midnight Oil ... the long list goes on. What emerges from these investigations is not so much discernable variations on a theme as subtly shifting aesthetics -- so that "White Rider" sounds like electric Dylan over David Bowie guitar stomps, and "The Women Are an Army" takes country's sliding guitars as a background to a familiar Casanova tale. Across it all, Jamie Hutchings' voice is a unifying factor; it slurs and sighs, drunken and sullen, and easily and accurately portrays both loss and depression.

So, it's the kind of album that requires explanation. The kind of album where songs have thought-out "themes" that the musician can readily identify and discuss; that sometimes require concentrated attention to unravel. You won't hear many soaring, pretty melodies here; sometimes, songs do little to rise above reverential bombast. But occasionally, Hutchings hits on a melody or an idea that resonates, and (as on previous BBK efforts) there are some gorgeous moments. Mostly, these are Bluebottle Kiss' forays into more melodic pop territory. "Scrub the Mist", with a rocking piano ostinato, and Strokes-like vocal distortion, is a calm highlight of the first disc; the casually-tossed out line "Time's a precious currency" sticks fast. And "Harold Holt", with its reference to Midnight Oil's "Wedding Cake Island", uses an Australian legend (the disappearance of the 17th Australian Prime Minister in the surf off Portsea, Victoria in 1967) as a powerful metaphor for loss.

But in the end, Doubt Seeds shows Bluebottle Kiss to be a band not so much as a unique combination of influences, but as a band that exists in different genres at the same time. There's an integrity and intensity to Hutchings' vision of his music that can be compelling, but can also be a little alienating for listeners. If you're ready to put in the effort to understand and really engage with this music, its depth can be rewarding indeed.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.