Bottom

You're Next

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Chances are few fans remember Bottom, the New York-to-San Francisco transplanted, all-girl stoner rock trio whose impossible-to-find self-released debut album (1999's Maiden Voyage) was followed by a similarly cursed sophomore turn (2001's Feels so Good When You're Gone -- released by a label on the verge of bankruptcy), and then -- silence. Well, even fewer will know what to make of their unexpected return four years later by way of a third, unusually free-form album named You're Next, on new label Small Stone. What may at first appear to be a Melvins-inspired exercise in droning, dread-filled power-chord grinds ("By a Thread," "The Same," "Requiem") and diffuse feedback made tenuous songflesh ("Testimony of the Mad Arab," "Distordo II," "Incantation 13"), is suddenly transformed mid-way through into a wildly experimental song-set. First there's an off-the-cuff solo guitar flight named "Bushmills Jimmy," then a false start ("Two for the Road") that sets up a clunky, traps-led hillbilly swing on "Rainy Day Blues" (apparently an ancient composition dating back to 1989!), and finally a hobo- folk-rock mutation thing called "The Traveller" to keep heads-a-spinning. There's also the matter of drummer Clementine's ill-advised trumpetings here and there, bassist's Nila's slightly less inept flute-playing and odd, narrated passage in her native German ("Excerpt von Schiller"), and, not to be outdone, singer/guitarist Sina's scary screeches (particularly on "Nana del Rio"), which, along with an assortment of alternate personalities, contributes to the most schizophrenic metal-related vocal performance this side of Karyn Crisis. All in all, it seems You're Next is equally defensible as a daringly eclectic break from convention as it is condemnable as a positively baffling collection of malformed ideas; the nagging suspicion that there's a greater conceptual continuity hidden beneath its unsolved mysteries is as palpable as the possibility of it all being one big scam! Whatever the case, most listeners approaching this album with preconceived ideas about what Bottom should (or used to) sound like will probably come away sorely disappointed; but those of open minds, free of formulaic bindings, will likewise find themselves helpless to resist its hypnotic, paralyzing pull.

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