Bluebottle Kiss

Come Across

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Although only the group's second album to be distributed in the U.S., Come Across is the Australian band's fifth release, and it sounds it. Bluebottle Kiss' first record came out in 1995, which gave the quartet nearly a decade to tighten and refine their sound for this triumphant 2004 disc. Although by the liner notes alone this looks like a solo project for singer/songwriter/producer Jamie Hutchings who is clearly the band's driving force, the other three members -- augmented by Sophie Hutchings' glistening piano on nearly every track -- are to Jamie as the Who were to Pete Townsend and Crazy Horse were to Neil Young. They flesh out his poetic, often stream of consciousness ramblings, adding musical tension and passion to words and melodies that would not have the same impact without the band's input. Echoes of fellow Australians Paul Kelly, Midnight Oil and Nick Cave drift through these taut tunes whose lyrics are thoughtful and meaningful but never pretentious. The magnificent folk-turned-blistering-rock of "Everything Begins and Ends at Exactly the Right Time," complete with angelic choir, and the seven-minute epic "Cross Purpose," a story song whose doomy narrative is perfectly reflected in the yin-yang pull of the music, are a few of the outstanding set pieces. They work most effectively within the context of the album. Hutchings isn't a terribly happy guy, and his often bleak songs reflect the longing, guilt, conflict and occasional redemption of characters who likely mirror the songwriter's own demons and feelings. All of this turmoil makes for an intense listen that is not for those who are looking for easy resolutions or spoon-fed love songs. This is challenging, rugged, dramatic rock with folk tendencies woven intricately into its coarse fabric. Best digested whole where the dramatic songs build on and off each other, the unrelenting Come Across is a mature, fiery work that deserves to be heard by the masses.

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