Songs from Willapa Bay


In 1994, I was 11. I religiously bought CMJ magazine for a two-year stint that began around then, and ended around the time they changed their layout and started featuring famous artists like Trent Reznor. This was way before they started rigging their lists of college radio polls. There was a point when I could hear music that I would otherwise never get to hear in suburban Pittsburgh — Indie rock. Emo wasn’t quite the knee-jerk, repulsion-inducing term it is now, and I lived in a very romantic state of mind. I’m a little nostalgic for it.

Since I generally have the opportunity to review music that I’m interested in, Birddog’s Songs from Willapa Bay is a little frustrating for me. I was drawn to the release because of Glenn Kotche, who, as it turns out, left after the last album. I generally dislike indie rock, with the exception of a couple of artists that I don’t really lump together in that category. I do love songwriting, though. I don’t want to give the impression that I’m frustrated with Birddog solely because they have short songs with lyrics.

I think they may have lost some creative edge since their last album. Losing guest spots by Edith Frost and Elliot Smith, as well as Glenn Kotche’s drum playing could serve as a devastating blow to any critic’s darling band. Their replacements? Sebadoh alum Jason Lowenstein and Paul Oldham, brother of Will, immortalized on the Palace Brothers’ “O Paul.” I love Will Oldham. I think he’s one of the most talented musicians today. Maybe Paul has a part in that, but it certainly doesn’t transfer to Birddog. They seem to be making a pretty sorry plea for credibility by including already successful indie stars to enhance the less-than-stellar, phony Alex Chilton, now slightly Oldham-nipping style of Bill Santen.

Songs from Willipa Bay is just so empty, so unfulfilling in its inane, unnecessarily aloof lyrics. If only it could touch on that resigned laziness of Oldham’s “West Palm Beach” or “Gulf Shores,” something that you get the sense it is aiming for, judging by the cover art and Fred Sexton’s guitar playing. It just doesn’t, though. Instead, I spend the whole length of the 23-minute album waiting for it to make some kind of dent, to sink in somehow.

Karma Records: • Birddog:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Summerland

    In rural England, a cranky woman bonds with and evacuee boy and uncovers a strange connection to her past.

  • Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations
    Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations

    These geniuses of early comedy finally get the presentation they are due in this Blu-ray edition.

  • Four-Letter Words
    Four-Letter Words

    No need to worry about offending delicate sensibilities with this playlist. We’re not talking about profanity, so just take the title at face value.

  • A Genesis In My Bed
    A Genesis In My Bed

    Former Genesis guitarist, Steve Hackett shares his life story in his story in an engaging and honest memoir. Reading his story feels like hanging out with a friend who’s interested in sharing how he felt living these experiences.

  • The Jayhawks
    The Jayhawks

    XOXO (Sham/Thirty Tigers). Review by Jeremy Glazier.

  • 18 to Party
    18 to Party

    When you’re in 8th grade, sneaking into a bar is way cooler than it is when you’re 40.

  • Adam

    A pregnant woman finds a home in Casablanca.

  • 2020 on Fire
    2020 on Fire

    Sound Salvation takes on current events with a playlist addressing the current fight for racial and social justice in America and the battles playing out in the streets in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.

  • Pokey Lafarge
    Pokey Lafarge

    Rock Bottom Rhapsody (New West Records). Review by Jeremy Glazier.

  • Landfall

    Cecilia Aldarondo takes a look at Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

From the Archives