Smitten

Buffalo Tom

Polydor Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Alison Bellach

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/01/1999

Sometimes, I wonder if I am paying close enough attention to the people I live with. You would think that if I had a roommate who was so obsessed with Claire Danes that she bought Romeo And Juliet, I would have not so completely missed Buffalo Tom. After all, they provided THE tracks in "My So Called Life" which were responsible for aiding Angela's mad, passionate falling in love with Jordan Catalano… and I missed it!

Of course, I bet that you haven't heard of them either, so I am here to correct that error.

See, luckily for me, I didn't miss this album. Smitten, the band's sixth release, serves up so many radio-ready tunes that I felt compelled to staple my foot to the floor in order to stop the tapping that inevitably accompanied my first listen. The first and second tracks, "Rachael" and "Postcard" grabbed me so quickly that I had to rewind and listen to them again just to make sure that I really didn't already know them.bim_ad_daily_vault_print_250

In fact, the disc's first single is "Rachael." Check out the lyrics on this baby:

"Rachael Thelmy is not very sure / A little girl inside her uniform / But aren't you really just a penny whore? / Rachael tell me what I'm waiting for…"

I really honestly hope that Rachael's mom doesn't hear this song. Finding out through a band that your daughter's really just a "penny whore" has to be a little traumatic.

The band's sound could be described as being anything from guitar-driven pop to alternative folksy country-esque. The difficulty in categorizing them stems from the fact that their sound is constantly changing; this album marks the first use of a string section ("Scottish Windows") and also marks Chris Colbourn's lead vocal debut. (Usually songs are headed by Bill Janovitz, who put out a solo album in 1997 separate from Buffalo Tom.)

The second single, "Wiser," somewhat reminds me of a 70's folk tune. The very mellow intro makes one almost miss the first lines:

"The autumn leaves / Me here without a tooth / You've given me the shaft/ My friend's car's breaking down/ And I've got no ride home"

It isn't often that you hear about a woman giving a guy "the shaft," especially on such an initially peaceful song. Then, the song dives into an extremely out of place car metaphor:

"And you stall out / With no one to give you a jump / Just hook your cables to me / And then you'll see / That I can start you up"

The lyrics seemed extremely misplaced within the song, but the amazing thing about it is that it is hard to figure out what they are saying because it blends so well into the instrumentation. I am not sure that this is a great idea for a second single, though; "Postcard," which sounds incredibly Wallflowers-esque, would have had them up the charts so quickly that they would swoon from the dizzying heights.

The only disappointments on this album are "Knot In It", an anti-war song with seems messily delivered and somewhat runs together, and "White Paint Morning", which would be okay if it weren't for the exceedingly irritating "ba ba ba bas" that make up the chorus.

Overall, this album really flows. I have had a hard time taking it out of my stereo since I got it.

Rating: B+

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© 1999 Alison Bellach and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Polydor Records, and is used for informational purposes only.