Album Review – The Bobby Lees – Bellevue


There are some albums and bands for which I fear I lack the vocabulary to properly contextualize why exactly they rule. I’m not, dear reader, admitting that I am a dullard on main (well…). Rather, I’ll admit that even though I’ve been doing this reviewing thing for 12 years, I have my musical wheelhouses and preferred styles where I’m most comfortable. We all do, and that was only exacerbated with COVID and how much many of us sought comfort art since 2020 (wonder why?). If you want to banter about metal or hardcore, I’m your guy. Synthwave, I got you. Garage punk is one of those styles that I tend to appreciate whenever I come across (or pass a loud driveway?), but it’s typically one I encounter more because my editor (hey!) or a publicist friend (thank you!) will nudge me in that direction versus seeking it out with regularity.

That brings me to the album at hand, one that renews my appreciation for the style of distorted ditties while also raising the bar. Maybe I’m out of practice, but I’m a little confused by some of the other reviews for Bellevue. It’s being called experimental, weird, eclectic, and eccentric by some. Personally, it’s a lot of wonderfully colorful adjectives, but I don’t really hear any of those. I’d go more with words like wild, vibrant, and maybe even classic. Maybe I’m not the right guy to judge, but one listen to Bellevue won’t be enough for most. To these ears, there’s no more fun listen in 2022.

I think many are confusing personality with quirk and looking too seriously at the label for confirmation bias. Mike Patton’s renown Ipecac Recordings is most famous for artists that push various sonic buttons with glee. That’s not entirely the case here. Instead, The Bobby Lees’ first for the label (and third overall), is concerned with only a couple buttons: the fun one (I assume it honks like a clown horn), and the “fresh spins on the familiar” button. Bellevue is a throwback to a host of eras and sounds. The rebellious spirit of the CBGB (both the early punk and later 80s hardcore) is certainly notable, as is the Sonic Youth-ian bursts of grungy fury. Most obvious to my ear drums is the 90s and 00s, with a series of tipsy winks at the direction of every band that started with “The” all those years ago during the famed garage rock revival. In fact, there are a few guitar and bass riff homages that got me chuckling.

Musically, there’s a ton of diversity on display, which is maybe where others are hearing experimental touches. No two songs come from the same template, though each of the thirteen tracks allow for each member to shine in some way. Post-punk, garage rock, good ol’ fashioned punk, and dashes of hardcore allow for a wide musical berth. Impressively, each new wrinkle is pulled off with equal grace. Certainly, vocalist/guitarist Sam Quartin’s distinctive voice is paramount to what you’ll remember: she’s somehow perfectly balanced punk fury and deft melodic touch to deliver excellent hooks. However, the musical foundation is maybe even stronger here. Hip-shaking basslines, wild work behind the kit, and soul-stirring riffs are around every corner.

Acerbic wit abounds throughout Bellevue, as vocalist/guitarist Sam Quartin exorcises a host of demons, though it’s to her credit that what could be a blues record in many hands turns into one of silver linings and triumphs. It’s really surprising how many humorous asides can be found, though there’s a certain famous band that gets the biggest middle finger and laugh out of me.

Ultimately, I’ve gushed more about this record than I have just about any of my recent metal faves, and for good reason: The Bobby Lees are the real deal, the kind of band that gets you to stop what you’re doing and demands your attention. Thankfully, Bellevue sounds like the kind of party needed for such an occasion. This is a stunner.

Order the album at this location.


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