Still via Vimeo
There was a time in New York Rock and Roll History when too many people wore too many cowboy hats. In between the aggressive glam of DGeneration the New Seattle feeding frenzy of The Strokes/Interpol/YYYs, all the rock boys and girls heard Nashville Pussy and a solitary Hank Williams (Jr. Jr.) CD and said, “Yes. I will affect a southern accent and wear a half shirt and it will be good.”
It was not good (I, of course, loved it at the time, but I was 22, and, like everyone else in the Motorcity bathroom, very, very high). But adjacent this horror show, still with cowboy hats but in the style of doomed and iconic Birthday Party bassist, Tracy Pew, there were drawling noise mopes, in tight pants, singing rancorous songs of sex and despair, bands like The Spells, Vanity Set, The Gunga Din, all striving and dying to make a Southern Gothic of the Lower East Side. This subset was generally ignored, nobody got signed, but it was glorious. That time is past and probably no big deal, but now, in 2016, like manna from a drugged out time machine, we get the tremendous Bambara. I love them and I am breaking out the black hat and mesh in their honor.
Bambara love Nick Cave. Like open-shirt-blues era Iceage, they love Nick Cave and Gun Club in equal measure. This is not fashionable stuff, but conversely it never goes out of style because, when done well, the kids will always want to fuck and expire. And Bambara do it exceedingly well. On their second album, Swarm (out now on Arrowhawk Records), Bambara writhe and burn through twelve tracks of furious low-end pathos and want. Toms are ridden into dust, bats are released, and singer Reid Bateh drawls and scowls until all panties drop so far as to be in the cellar, were we were all intending to go anyway, presumably. Ignore my bad poetry (always); I’m trying to tell you the record is a scorcher.
In Bambara’s wonderful new video, for “All The Ugly Things,” Reid, tucked in white T-shirt and shiny belt buckle declaring his allegiance to the form, flails the band’s soul exorcism in front of a few politely disinterested audience members/strangers on a train. He wails, “say something say something” over and over, but they just want to drink their coffee and chat. He doubles over and falls, shooting out of the camera’s view only to slingshot back into frame, just spastically boogieing for transcendence while the fog machine is still working. Tell me about it, man.
See Bambara perform in New York at Berlin on May 12 and Mercury Lounge on May 19.
Zachary Lipez is the bard of New York rock. Follow him on Twitter.