Music Reviews

Grant Lee Buffalo

Jubilee

Slash/Warner Bros.

Grant Lee Buffalo’s Jubilee, like all works of popular music crying out for the “A” word – art – is spun from the fine madness of its slightly touched and supremely gifted creator. GLB songs, all written by frontperson and songwriter Grant Lee Phillips, defy easy categorization. Coming off as three-minute novels of elation and reverie, Jubilee’s songs open deeply felt worlds for the listener which linger long after the music’s over.

While much of Jubilee’s sum total magic can be traced to Phillips’ apt songsmithing, deft delivery, and aggressive arranging, such vaporous and elusive hoodoo exceeds the rock-crit lingua’s descriptive vocabulary. Instrumentally, GLB remakes the rutted road of bluesy trad-Americana first paved by Bob Dylan on Highway 61 Revisited – and subsequently worn through under the lumbering Birkenstocks of legions of tributists – by piercing listeners with occasional slashes of trebly, distinctly nineties, feedback.

Gifted with a plaintive rocker’s voice and the ability to affect a Motown falsetto, Phillips manipulates pitch and dynamics for maximum vocal effect. On a confessional ditty like “Testimony,” Phillips the pop chameleon moves between the stylings of oppositional vocal polarities, Smoky Robinson and Neil Young, as seamlessly as he moves from verse to chorus.

The CD’s push song, “Truly,” is a catchy paean to love recaptured at the abyss. Weighted with autumnal imagery, it grips as an anthem of seasonal transition. “Everybody Needs a Little Sanctuary,” with its muted banjo and accordion intro, is nonetheless persistent, syncopated, and upbeat. As its title promises, “Sanctuary” is a still, small oasis amid the more muscular guitar chops elsewhere on the disc. Likewise Jubilee, a subtle, consistent, 14-song collection of freshness remade from familiar idioms, forms a welcome respite from the over-the-top sonic brinksmanship available elsewhere in recorded music.


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