In the 1980s, Massachusetts was a hot bed for indie rock; Bands like Pixies, Dinosaur Jr, The Lemonheads, and Mission of Burma all originated from the state. Also, originating from the area during this era was Buffalo Tom. Like the previous bands mentioned, Buffalo Tom spawned some alternative radio hits throughout the 90s. In 1993, “Big Red Letter Day” peaked at #8 and in 1995, “Sleepy Eyed” (1995) peaked at #4 on the Heatseekers chart. But despite the success, Buffalo Tom feels like the lost little brother of the other band’s mentioned. Pixies, The Lemonheads, and Dinosaur Jr. all had lengthy hiatuses and received a fair amount of publicity once they reunited; Buffalo Tom was on hiatus for a good deal of the aughts but received little fanfare when they re-emerged in 2007. Skins is the band’s second album since ending their hiatus.
Maybe the reason Buffalo Tom has never gotten the same recognition as the other Massachusetts bands mentioned is because they do not have a signature sound. This is very evident listening to Skins. The album’s opening track and lead single “Arise, Watch” is a slower acoustic rock song. The track is reminiscent of R.E.M. with the addition of a wicked J Mascis-esque guitar solo right in the middle of the track.
“Arise, Watch” seems like the type of album opener that is good enough to set the tempo and mood for the rest of the album but any hope of that is destroyed with the album’s second track “She’s Not Your Thing.” The track is a Teenage Fanclub-esque power pop tune that is almost the exact opposite end of the rock spectrum from “Arise, Watch.” On it’s own “She’s Not Your Thing” would probably work but at this point in the album it feels quite awkward. Especially because it is followed by “Down” which sounds like Jakob Dylan covering Shawn Colvin‘s “Sunny Came Home”.
Unfortunately, the album doesn’t get anymore cohesive from there. Skins feels like a collection of singles rather than albums. I must admit that I like a good deal of the songs on the album but I can not get over how awkward it all sounds mashed together.
MP3: Buffalo Tom “Down”
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