December 13, 2002

Sam Bisbee "Live At Arlene Grocery"

Very rare is it that I'll hear a great record that makes me simply drop another review for that week so that I can babble on and on incoherently. This week I had one such record, but surprise! I got another one that totally bested the other great record. Two bands will have to wait. I've got this record to ramble on about! Even rarer is it that such a record is a LIVE ALBUM by an unknown (to me, at least) talent. But damn it all, Sam Bisbee is a man of great talent, and this record is a document of that.

Now, what is it about Bisbee that sets him apart from his peers? Well, that's a matter of taste, really. As for me, I am really rather keen on his lyrics; he's a funny fellow, and he's got some great stories to tell. From love in funny seats ("Bucket Seat") to love in cramped office spaces, ("Cubicle Love Song") he is witty and intelligent without ever having to dumb it down. Being from New York also throws up the Clem Snide flag, too; unlike Eef's self-depreciation in the face of learning life lessons, Bisbee's not necessarily trying to impress you with book smarts. And if you think you've heard "Miracle Car," you have; it's currently being used in a national advertising campaign.

Of course, with this being a live album, much of the music comes from his debut album, Vehicles. Two of the songs are covers, the opening (and totally spot-on) cover of New Order's "Age of Consent" and the irony-free cover of De La Soul's "Eye Know." Also with this being a live album, it's really hard to tell what he's doing in comparison to what he did in the studio. I'm hearing a bit of repetition in the music, leading me to think that he does things with tape loops, but I really can't be too sure about this. I do hear a New Order vibe throughout most of his set, but you can also hear a bit of good ole glummy boy Thom Yorke. Heck, at first I thought that the reason "Miracle Car" sounded so familiar was that it was indeed a Radiohead cover!

I like seeing bands live that impress me enough that I'm left running to the merch table to buy up their goods. Live at Arlene Grocery is the next best thing to that feeling. Sam Bisbee--I get the feelin' he's not going to be down in Texas any time soon. I also have this feeling that he's going to be thrown in to the "next big thing" lists that inevitibly appear at the beginning of a new year. Let's just hope that his talent gives him the success he deserves. One to watch, for sure!

--Joseph Kyle

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