Electro Shock Blues

They're like old friends....

THEY’RE LIKE OLD FRIENDS. THE KIND WITH WHOM YOU can lose contact for five years, knowing that when you finally get around to seeing them again, you’ll pick up exactly where you left off. In a cockle-warming sort of a way, nothing will have changed. The thing is, though, after a while you’ll come to realise that there’s a damn good reason why it’s been five years since you last saw them.

You see, Buffalo Tom couldn’t give two hoots about fashion. Meandering along in their own rather shy, charming way, albums like 1993’s ‘Big Red Letter Day’ were paeans to the joys of ploughing your own furrow. And, as befits a band apparently blissfully unaware of a bigger world out there, the sandpaper melodies and occasional acoustic guitars played out intensely personal tales inspired by memory and emotion rather than CNN or, indeed, any recognisable aspect of 20th-century culture.

Fair enough, perhaps. But as the end of the century approaches, it would be nice if with ‘Smitten’ there was any sign that Buffalo Tom had even listened to a record in the last five years. The only discernible new influences now appear to come from Crowded House (‘Wiser’, ‘Rachael’) or, with a cursory nod to the ’90s,from the theme tune to [I]Ally McBeal[/I] (‘Do You In’).

It’s no longer even sweet melancholy versus blue-collar guitar shapes, just something vaguely tired and overwrought, mistaking wilful ignorance for stand-alone originality.

It’s reassuring, certainly, to know that some things never change. But sometimes, you just want those old friends to really surprise you.