Bluebottle Kiss - Doubt Seeds
Review by "The Barman"
On which a reconstituted version of Sydney band Bluebottle Kiss reaches out with the sort of expansive vision that few bands anywhere can manage. This is a sprawling, sometimes breathtaking album - the band's sixth, to be precise - that re-writes a few rules along the way.
Firstly, it's a double CD - and it makes no secret of the fact, wrapping itself in one of those chunky, oversized jewel cases that have gone out of fashion, in favour of the slimline jobs. Technically, the 2CD format wasn't a necessity as the body of the whole clocks in at a shade under 80 minutes, so let's hope it doesn't scare off consumers (which seems unlikely with it retailing for what passes as "normal" in Australian CD retail prices).
The back story has it that the band and/or label decided to split "Doubt Seeds" because each half was recorded in separate studios with different set-ups and production approaches. There's an almost aplogetic note on the bio sheet but, really, there's no need for that. This should be judged on the content alone. Disc One is the noise odyssey, its companion more less harsh.
The second thing you need to know is that principal member, guitarist and vocalist Jamie Hutchings still doesn't restrict his songs to one particular genre. He grew up in a jazz family, took on additional influences as disparate as the Stooges, Sly and the Family Stone, Nick Cave, Van Morrison, Midnight Oil, the Church and Radio Birdman.
Diversity has always been a Bluebottle Kiss watchword. "Speak Up Memory", for example, is Sonic Youth without the wonky tunings, while "The Women Are An Army" is countrified Neil Young without a strangled cat in earshot. "Black Dahlias" is a spiky whirlwind of jarring guitars touching on No Wave, although without its atonality.
The album opener, "Your Mirror is a Vulture", is a brazen attempt to nod in the direction of "TV Eye", (although the guitar tone's more Thurston Moore than Ron Asheton). Once they slip into the groove and the sax starts ducking and weaving like Anthony Mundine on a good night, you know Bluebootle Kiss is boixing smart and in command of the other "sweet sceince" - making rock and roll.
"Harold Holt" is moody electric piano and backward masked guitars and also almost certainly the first time a missing-presumed-kidnapped-by-a-Chinese-submarine Australian Prime Minister has been name-checked in a break-up song. (Thankfully, Bluebottle Kiss leave Sir Billy "He Died on the Job" Snedden alone.) John Coltrane gets more than a passing look in on "Dream Audit".
Jamie Hutchings might be the Main Man (and, along with guitarist Ben Grounds, the only other long-term member) but there's plenty of ensemble playing in evidence, with a bunch of friends along for the ride to add additional instrumentation.
I'd guess Bad Seeds fans will take to this like a young Nick used to take to school scripture classes. If you want to develop thaqt point, "Nova Scotia" sounds like one of Mr Cave's old-time sermons from the late '80s. Still in that time zone, "Slight Return" out-Pixies the Pixies with its waves of guitar mutilation.
Last time I saw Bluebottle Kiss live they seemed too diverse for their own good. "Doubt Seeds" leaves little doubt that the vision has come together.