Album Review: Avi Buffalo – ‘Avi Buffalo’ (Sub Pop)

The second summer of Sub Pop blooms into a bittersweet, magnificent debut album

Say what you like about Americans – eg having pancakes for breakfast really can’t be beneficial to a balanced diet – when it comes to indie rock there’s isn’t anyone better at it. This week’s reminder of that fact is [b]Avi Buffalo[/b]. Four teenagers from Long Beach, California, who spearhead a new wave of bands ([b]Dum Dum Girls[/b], [b]Happy Birthday[/b]) who are each propelling the iconic Seattle label Sub Pop back to its former glories.

[b]Avi Buffalo[/b] are led by a 19-year-old songwriting genius called [b]Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg[/b] and all the songs on his band’s debut are about a young man undergoing a mental collapse. But, for all his fragility, Avi is as good a songwriter as anyone who’s ever traded under Sub Pop’s logo. And that’s quite a claim.

Alongside schoolfriends Arin Fazio and Sheridan Riley on bass and drums, Avi’s girlfriend Rebecca Coleman sings back-up and plays keyboards; her reedy but pretty voice going some way to disguise her beau’s torments. Take this line from [b]‘Summer Cum’[/b]: [i]“Go on and tell your friends how I can’t rearrange my skin/They’ve made up stories based on me so everyone could feel at ease”[/i], frets Avi, who sings a little bit like [b]Daniel Johnston[/b] and [b]Mark Linkous[/b]’ lovechild.

There’s a lot of prettying up of this darkness going on, much of it by Avi himself; his guitar playing – akin to [b]Johnny Marr[/b] playing a [b]Tortoise[/b] song – give the likes of [b]‘Remember Last Time’[/b], and the record’s best song [b]‘What’s In It For?[/b]’ a zig-zagging fluidity.

It’s often reported that [b]Mark Arm[/b], [b]Mudhoney[/b] frontman and former punk rock Lord of the Pacific Northwest, still works at Sub Pop as their warehouse manager. Remembering the days when the label would print T shirts saying ‘WHAT PART OF NO MONEY DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND’ to ward off bailiffs must make him feel old. The arrival of Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg on the scene must make him feel ancient.

[b]James McMahon[/b]

[i]What do you think of the album? Let us know by posting a comment below.[/i]

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