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The Bad Livers
Blood & Mood
Sugar Hill CD SUG-3905, 2001 (41:47)

Not baaad this time around

Linda Dailey Paulson, 6 August 2001

In this latest release from Austin's Bad Livers, the group finally lives up to the adjective in its name. That's a bit of an overstatement. Blood & Mood isn't pure bad, but it sure ain't good, despite how much you want to like it.

What was Danny Barnes thinking? Although in one lyric he cries about "being alone in his room," it's obvious he was having too much fun with his toys and toying with the limits of the country-punk aesthetic. The music was lost in the process.

The Bad Livers have been paired down to a duo by attrition. It's now Barnes and Mark Rubin and their home studio gear. Barnes acknowledges the sound is indeed so vastly different because it's "not the same band."

Judging from the defensive three-page press release, both musicians and the label were anticipating critics and fans might be dissatisfied with "Blood & Mood." It's admirable to continue to reinvent and explore various aspects of music and its production. There is an obvious disconnect here. Do they want to make a CD for themselves? If so, then why the defensive posture? It doesn't mesh.

What's the music like? A moonshine mish-mosh in a mosh pit. The spoken word clips chosen scream "redneck!" But rather than integrating these snippets as a meaningful or interesting commentary within the music, they come across as a comic aside or a "see what I kin do!" The only track on which this is done effectively is a brief opening section of "Looky Here" - it's almost tempting to compare this to Amon Tobin. But then it just falls flat, as does most of the music. Why can't this be sustained?

As with R.L. Burnside's Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down - another roots-based recording obfuscated with gee-whiz dice-and-slice gimcrackery - too much monkeying with a good thing has potential to ruin it. Evident here, too.

"Little Bitty Town" is perhaps the glaring exception. It's a lyrically interesting ode to hanging out with friends and small town life with an infectious chorus about "getting older, getting over the hill" as "we ride around." Other better than average cuts include "Death Trip" and "Love Songs Suck."

Some interesting musical ideas are being tossed around, but this project feels like a bunch of incomplete sentences. And without punctuation, no less. Since these ideas are never fully formed, listeners never get a sense of connection or satisfaction.

songs  Fist Magnet  · I'm Losing  · Little Bitty Town  · Looky Here  · Love Songs Suck  · The Legend of Sawdust Boogers  · Death Trip  · One More Night in a Hotel  · New York City  · Man Vs. Fate - 2 Out of 3 Falls, 10 Round Limit

of related interest  

If you want a baaad Bad Livers album, try:

Industry and Thrift, Sugar Hill CD SHCD-3887, 1998

The immediately previous release from Danny Barnes' punk bluegrass band. How many bluegrass bands have you heard with a tuba? How many have recorded "A Yid ist Geboren inz Oklahoma"? This one is magnificent madness.

Copyright © 2001 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.