The Bobby Lees

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Bellevue Review

by Fred Thomas

New York garage punks the Bobby Lees tighten up on Bellevue, their third album and first for new label Ipecac, shedding some of the ragged production of their earlier albums and amplifying their intensity in the process. The band tracked with producer Vance Powell (known for his work with Jack White among others) opting to record live in the studio rather than build the songs with overdubbing. As a result, Bellevue feels like a rowdy dive bar gig, particularly on tracks like "Ma Likes to Drink," a chaotic riff fest enhanced by singer/guitarist Sam Quartin's half-shouted, half-slurred vocal banter. The Bobby Lees keep the energy high and the tempos fast for the majority of the album, slowing only for simmering, psychedelic moments like the eerie piano slink of "Strange Days" or the film noir fever dream faux jazz of "Little Table." The only other time the band breaks its stride is to get into fits of noise like those explored on album standout "Hollywood Junkyard," a marching midtempo rocker that breaks down into valleys of distant voices and tangles of guitar skree. Late in the track listing comes the especially bilious "Greta Van Fake." While rock & roll diss tracks are fewer and further between in the 2020s, this one feels especially personal, with lyrics like "You think you're Robert Plant but you're a joke, you're a wannabe" lining up with the title as a fairly overt drag. The band winds the record down with an explosive cover of the Waterboys' "Be My Enemy," bringing the energy way up one last time before closing things out with a brief, surfy instrumental. Bellevue is easily the Bobby Lees' best-sounding album, but it sacrifices none of the band's attitude, guts, or power for its clearer definition.

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