BEE. ! l I
On the hoof t:
A power trio of quality and distinction? Alastair Mabbott
exchanges words with Bill Janovitz L
of Boston’s fine Buffalo Tom.
That’s Buffalo Tom. folks. not to be confused with Buffalo Springfield. Grant Lee Buffalo. Buffalo Bill. ‘Buffalo Girls' or any other shaggy-buttocked ruminants that might spring to mind. Long after the grunge wars are over. this modestly successful Boston trio will still be around: frontman Bill Janovitz‘s guitar will still be ringing and his voice ﬁnding new sets of heartstrings to tug.
Their excellent third album. Let Me Come ()i-er - seen as a breakthrough more by their fans. especially Bn'tish ones. says Janovitz. than the band itself. ‘because it still didn't sell that many records‘ — proved beyond doubt that this was a band that stood out from the pack by virtue of their class and talent. It even provided a hungry public with the staggering non-anthem ‘Taillights Fade‘ — widely reckoned to be their peak so far. (Janovitz himself feels the track ‘Mineral' is the Tom‘s fittest moment.)
When Buffalo Torn‘s current LP. Big Red Letter Day. came out. I gave it a bit of a panning for treading water and. as i saw it. surrendering to one narrow deﬁnition of what they could be. But perhaps that wasn‘t the point. From their eponymous J. Mascis-produced debut through successively cleaner— sounding records. the trio have based their songs on pretty much the same elements every time. ‘progressing' in a far subtler way than most bands would dare. Janovitz agrees that that‘s how they look at it.
‘I think it‘sjust polishing tip certain things. y'know. and differentiating the production a little bit as well. It's a linear thing. I think. We‘re not the kind of band that looks at each thing and says. well. now we‘re going to do our punk rock record, this is going to be our folk-rock record. this is going to be our ska record . . ! We're not interested in burning down our past. forsaking our other records. It‘s a sort of delineation: same kind of songs. just trying to patch up what we do.‘
The sound of Buffalo Tom is almost generic. while being unmistakably their own. The chord-shapes Janovitz uses. and the blend of passion and restraint with which the band power them along. are archetypal. So it's not surprising that young bands springing up around the country with Hiisker [)u. Dinosaur Jr and the like coursing through their veins can easily be tarred as Buffalo Tom soundalikes.
‘Just like when people used to say we sounded like Dinosaur Jr or Hiiskcr Dii or whoever.‘ Janovitz responds. ‘Certainly, there are bands that we‘re inﬂuenced by. and. I don‘t know. it‘s son of an obvious thing. When people point to bands and say they're supposed to sound like this or this — I don‘t think that’s a relevant argument. It should be acknowledged. i guess. but I‘ve never understood
how journalists could write off a band on the basis of 3
the way they sound. if they sound close to somebody else. ‘cause that‘s the history of rock‘n‘roll.
‘To answer your question. i have heard bands that sound like pieces of us. but we‘re always the last people to notice that. because we‘re so close to our own sound. We don‘t hear the similarities the way the fans do.“
‘l’ve never understood how journalists could write off a band on the basis of the way they sound, it they sound close to somebody else, ’cause that’s the history of rock ’n’ roll.’
One can only imagine the impact these introspectively intense songs might have when performed solo and acoustically. But. for the moment. there‘s little likelihood ofthat. The songs are brought to fruition collaboratively with bassist
Chris Colboum and drummer Tom Maginnis. and
Janovitz likes the fact that. when he‘s out there under the bright lights. it‘s not just himselfthat‘s standing
there all exposed. ‘so all the glory and all the blame can go on to all three of us instead ofjust one. I'm
not interested in that solo thing right now. lt‘s more
important to me to get in with three people I really trust. to edit me.‘ So. Buffalo Tom will continue to plug away. feeling
» like fortunate souls as they get together to play for 3 the sheer enjoyment of it and gradually add to their
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‘ audience with the planned one album per year.
‘That‘s the type of success that I‘ve always envied in bands like REM. who are huge now. I would never want to be that big — that's not my goal ~ but l always envied the way that they got there. building up slowly instead of having this one record that comes out of nowhere and breaks you. We‘re not looking for hit records necessarily. which is good. because it doesn‘t seem like it‘s going to happen!‘ Buffalo Tom play Queen Margaret Union. Glasgow on Fri 10.
The List 3- l6 December WM 25