Innocence And Experience
Independent Release, 1999
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/05/1999
Being in one of the hubs of independent music in America, I'm often asked whether I've heard of this local band or that local band. Often, the answer is "no," simply because there are so many little bar bands sweating it out on the scene that it's damned near impossible to keep track of who is who, even with the Illinois Entertainer.
And then there are groups that I have heard of, but haven't had the pleasure of hearing their music. One such band is - well, was, anyway - Bob's Yer Uncle, a group that has been banging around for some time in this area. With the recent release of their independent album Innocence And Experience, I can add them to the "groups I've heard of and heard their music" column... and I have to think it's a matter of time before someone gives them their big break.
The group - vocalist/guitarist Adrian Matthews, guitarist/vocalist Bill Henshell, bassist/vocalist Dan Flanagan and drummer Mark Treitman - reminds me of a poppier Smashing Pumpkins. The rhythms they create are complex but do have a toe-tapping groove to them, and the vocals hide the darker tone of the lyrics in their simple beauty.
The overall sound of Innocence And Experience is surprisingly excellent; this is something I've grown to not expect from an independent release. Opening with the refreshing "School's Dark Daze," don't be surprised if you find yourself going back to this song often. And I can't think of the last time any songwriter dared to refer to Charlie And The Chocolate Factory in a song ("Bittersweet") and not make it sound hokey. In fact, the reference seems so natural to the structure of this particular song.
But beyond the poppy sound are some grey clouds, something that will come through on repeated listenings. From coming to terms with one's self ("How can I make peace with you / when I retreat from myself" - "There Is A Door") to the melancholic existence of the populace ("We plunge the knofe into the womb of innocence / We carve out plots of gloom we call existence" - "Innocence And Experience"), Bob's Yer Uncle dares to try and be a thinking person's band. Such images might frighten some listeners away, but I think it actually adds to the musical texture that the band strives to create.
The only "negative" is that it sometimes is hard to stay focused on the music; if you're listening to it and trying to do something else, chances are Bob's Yer Uncle will just become background music, albeit enjoyable background music. Innocence And Experience needs a little additional spice in order to keep the listener hooked from note one to the final fade; that's something that will only come with time.
In fact, I would question if seeing the band live would breathe some life into those songs. (Side note: I had the chance to see them recently, but had to pass so I could play "Mr. Mom"... not that I'm complaining about that.) I'm willing to bet that Bob's Yer Uncle would blow even the songs I really liked away with their live show.
Innocence And Experience is an album from a group that is just about ready to make the step up from independent band to something big. All they need now - besides a little more work - is a chance. Here's hoping someone will give them the opportunity to prove themselves on a grander scale.