American trio Bambara returns with new material right on time for Valentine`s Day.
It is a dark and furious record, full of snarling guitars, thundering drums, humming bass and feral vocals – sometimes spoken but mostly shouted out at the top of the singer`s lungs. When the band is not trying to break your neck with sonic speed (“Serafina”, “Heat Lightning”), they will slow down to what can only be described as a crawl though a dark alley in the death of the night. You can feel your hair stand on end when Bambara paints their blackest pictures with the use of the instruments at their disposal and eerie background vocals, often reminding that of a gospel choir.
The band is known for their signature take on post punk and their incredible lyrics in equal measures. Southern Gothic is a term that springs to mind not only due to the macabre, often paranormal stories penned by the band – but because of the history of Bambara themselves.
Like many of their characters, members of Bambara (twin brothers Reid and Blaze Bateh and William Brookshire) come from Georgia (Athens) but moved to a large city (Brooklyn). It was in a basement apartment where their sound and their unique story telling was born. The lyrics are full of gore, heartbreak, violence and hardly anyone comes out of them alive.
Bambara`s previous record “Shadow On Everything” told a story of a town that nobody could leave and each song followed one character. Lyrics were often fragmented and only reading them one by one and looking for clues could the listener piece the gruesome tale together. This format is recreated on “Stray”. Without getting into spoilers – Death comes to unnamed City in a copper Ford Pinto to take the souls of myriads of characters – from Ben and Lily who were harmed in their youth, to their abandoned daughter Miracle and Cole who could not save his teen sweetheart Crystal or his wife Claire from the impending doom. Nobody is spared from Death – especially if they had even a chance meeting with one of the characters. It may be 10 songs for you but to the characters its years if not decades of hardships before they meet their end.
One song that is particularly unsettling is “Sing Me To The Streets” – because if you like me work out the entire story with notes and comparisons, it feels (a bit) like Reid Bateh placed himself (or his alter ego) in there.
Themes of arson, fire, death and dominance are woven so tightly with each other into a compelling story that one wishes it would be made into a movie. Or at least a comic book. Mr Lynch are you paying attention?
“Stray” is one of the albums of 2020 and it gathers rave reviews from every possible corner of the industry. The band will tour US and then will come for two UK tours and festival appearances (and some of the shows are already sold out).
I am waiting for their shows in Birmingham and Manchester with anticipation and some unease. Last year I spent a whole night with Bambara talking about our favourite books and movies. If the story on “Stray” is true and you get doomed by meeting one of the characters, then I better start to look for lightning bugs and vintage Fords. You never know…
PS. Did you notice that “Blaze” and “Reid” are both poetic synonyms for “fire”? I`m properly starting to scare myself right now.
Malicia Dabrowicz (Vanadian Avenue)