Wobbleshop: Bittergreen

Dave Heaton



Label: Big Record Company
US Release Date: 2000-10-03

People make music for all sorts of reasons: to make a personal statement, to make a name for themselves, to express themselves artistically, to make money. On their latest album Bittergreen, the Southern California duo Wobbleshop project the plain-and-simple purpose of having fun, of making catchy pop songs that will make people smile.

As far as I'm concerned, this is a worthy enough goal, as long as you have the songwriting talent to pull it off; Wobbleshop does. Their sound is built around melody, reminiscent in that way of all sorts of people, from the Beach Boys to Elvis Costello to lots of current "indie" bands. Yet there's also a certain rustic Americana feel, plus a heavy dose of laid-back California-ness. All together, this makes for entertaining music to hang around with, the sort of lazy summer tunes that make you feel good.

Wobbleshop's two members, Brian Holmes and Levi Nunez, play a wide variety of instruments, and do so without drawing much attention to that fact. For example, one of the main instruments is accordion, but you hardly know it unless you pay close attention. They're not They Might Be Giants or a polka band, by any means. It's there, but not in the center, and not a gimmick of any sort. Accordion is part of the mix, as is guitar, keyboards, bass, percussion, etc.

In a lot of ways, Wobbleshop sound like their songs should be all over the radio airwaves. They have a listener-friendly, easygoing sound, almost like "alternative" hitmakers from the early '90s (when mainstream "alternative rock" was at least relatively about melody, and not all about haircuts) like Toad the Wet Sprocket or Gin Blossoms ... except that Wobbleshop's good, and those bands aren't especially good. Their lyrics are universal enough that your parents could relate, but they're also mysterious enough to satisfy your poet friends.

Take the first track "Belong", for example. They express universal enough feelings, like "hold me now" and "we're out where we belong", but also more elusive ones, like "this is better than rooftops, brother" or "wrap your arms around this projecting fool". That song's one of my favorites. Another is "Summermoonfission", which evokes the simplest of pleasures with a rolling rhythm, sweetly sincere vocals and lyrics about "walking the dog in the middle of June".

They can rock (as on the second track, "Past Perfect"), but they don't wield that power like a sledgehammer. Their secret weapons are feeling and melody, and they use both in a truly endearing way. Writing a good pop song, one that doesn�t overstay its welcome, is a tough task; on Bittergreen, Wobbleshop deliver 13 such tracks, and all are thoroughly pleasurable, memorable and repeatable.





Ivy Mix's 'Spirits of Latin America' Evokes the Ancestors

A common thread unites Ivy Mix's engaging Spirits of Latin America; "the chaotic intermixture between indigenous and European traditions" is still an inextricable facet of life for everyone who inhabits the "New World".


Contemporary Urbanity and Blackness in 'New Jack City'

Hood films are a jarring eviction notice for traditional Civil Rights rhetoric and, possibly, leadership -- in other words, "What has the Civil Rights movement done for me lately?"


'How to Handle a Crowd' Goes to the Moderators

Anika Gupta's How to Handle a Crowd casts a long-overdue spotlight on the work that goes into making online communities enjoyable and rewarding.


Regis' New LP Reaffirms His Gift for Grinding Industrial Terror

Regis' music often feels so distorted, so twisted out of shape, even the most human moments feel modular. Voices become indistinguishable from machines on Hidden in This Is the Light That You Miss.


DMA's Go for BritElectroPop on 'The Glow'

Aussie Britpoppers the DMA's enlist Stuart Price to try their hand at electropop on The Glow. It's not their best look.


On Infinity in Miranda July's 'Me and You and Everyone We Know'

In a strange kind of way, Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know is about two competing notions of "forever" in relation to love.


Considering the Legacy of Deerhoof with Greg Saunier

Working in different cities, recording parts as MP3s, and stitching them together, Deerhoof once again show total disregard for the very concept of genre with their latest, Future Teenage Cave Artists.


Joshua Ray Walker Is 'Glad You Made It'

Texas' Joshua Ray Walker creates songs on Glad You Made It that could have been on a rural roadhouse jukebox back in the 1950s. Their quotidian concerns sound as true now as they would have back then.


100 gecs Remix Debut with Help From Fall Out Boy, Charli XCX and More

100 gecs' follow up their debut with a "remix album" stuffed with features, remixes, covers, and a couple of new recordings. But don't worry, it's just as blissfully difficult as their debut.


What 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Taught Me About Unlearning Toxic Masculinity

When I first came out as trans, I desperately wanted acceptance and validation into the "male gender", and espoused negative beliefs toward my femininity. Avatar: The Last Airbender helped me transcend that.


Nu Deco Ensemble and Kishi Bashi Remake "I Am the Antichrist to You" (premiere + interview)

Nu Deco Ensemble and Kishi Bashi team up for a gorgeous live performance of "I Am the Antichrist to You", which has been given an orchestral renovation.


Rock 'n' Roll with Chinese Characteristics: Nirvana Behind the Great Wall

Like pretty much everywhere else in the pop music universe, China's developing rock scene changed after Nirvana. It's just that China's rockers didn't get the memo in 1991, nor would've known what to do with it, then.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.