Buzz Hungry

At the Hands of Our Intercessors

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On one hand, Buzz Hungry has the minor handicap that no guitarist and drummer could ever come remotely close to matching the heft, the buzz, the roar, the huge chops, and the massive might of Bob Mould and Malcolm Travis backing up Sugar bassist/singer David Barbe on his songs. But more importantly, Barbe's five fantastic Sugar compositions (four on Besides, one on File Under: Easy Listening) have proven his worth as a gifted songwriter to a much larger audience than his years in Mercyland and single with Buzz Hungry did, and At the Hands shows that he's still doing his best work now, judging from the half he writes and sings. Also, if no Sugar, Buzz Hungry, for whom Barbe guitars instead of basses, is a corkin' sharp band in its own right. The glass-cutting, jagged, noisy 6/8 waltz "Black Hole Soul," written by drummer Brooks Carter and sung by bassist Eric Sales with backing help from Barbe, is typical: hard, wild, and over-caffeinated. Likewise, the opening, "White Sky," in which Barbe takes a much needed potshot at "lethargic fans and a plethora of mediocre rock bands", is hyped-up, smackin', and over-the-top great, surfing over great alternating tremolo guitar sheets that greatly recall the Lyres' classic "I Want to Help You Ann," while the old Singles Only label 7" B-side "The Envictor" finds Barbe wailing at the top of his range like Sugar's "In the Eyes of My Friends." Fine, loose, garage punk excitement, like a less off-the-cuff Sebadoh. Little noodles of nothing and scraps of ideas appear between the fleshed out songs -- which implies that Mould wasn't the only one knocked out by My Bloody Valentine's lunatic landmark Loveless and later Guided By Voices -- but the variety and unpredictability of the band's far-ranging material and rocking attack add up to a refreshing album, and Barbe is one of the U.S.'s best-kept secrets with a really effective pop voice.

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