Ask yourself if the music feels current, however – if Buffalo Tom could be breaking out now – and you get an unequivocal “no;” To our wide-eared detriment, I might add. The reason for this uncomfortable sense of, um, antiquity is that throughout Buffalo Tom’s career – as well as their El Rey set – there is a total absence of pastiche, of that current brand of retro-chic critique-spoof that’s got all the kids getting down these days.
They are no hipsters. They aspire not to genre-bash, nor to bring back some musical holy grail of the past (whether in jest or deference). They’re just songwriters.
Guys who got really good at penning songs and playing them in their garage – pro amateur-rockers, if you will. It’s refreshing … and oh-so-passé.
Three Easy Pieces marks the first collection of new Buffalo Tom music in nine years. Guitarist/vocalist Bill Janovitz is now a Coldwell Banker real estate agent. Bassist/vocalist Chris Colbourn works at an international booking agency, while drummer Tom Maginnis mans a reference database publishing company desk.
But guess what? Their angst-filled ballads still rock – all pure melody, raw power chords and raw emotion, not to mention those unmatched vocal harmonies, distant human hearts beating through the fuzz.
As for Hatfield, breathy innocence intact, her fem-rock vulnerability lends her a little more currency in today’s world. Though, paradoxically, it’s Hatfield whose angst-splattered ditties dropped us a little too far back into an artistic era where depression decorated the walls (“You’re so alone/You’re so alone/You wanna die/And nobody knows”).
Still, with Hatfield sharing the stage with nothing but her guitar, and the featured act flashing you back with no more than a guitarist, bassist and drummer (Where’s the tambourine guy, the Casio guy and the drum machine? Where’s the Mac that should be up front, and the multimedia screen out in back?), the whole experience felt stripped down, simple and true, resonating somewhere deep inside, somewhere where being human used to feel a lot more palpable.