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The Front Bottoms At Best Buy Theater, Saturday, June 28th, 2014, Reviewed

The Front Bottoms

The Front Bottoms

“But I’m a creature of a culture that I create
I’m the last one on the dance floor
As the chandelier gives way
And I am permanently
Preoccupied with your past
I’ve been around long enough now
To know that the good things never last
They never last”

The difference between Brian Sella and his counterpart forty years ago Bob Dylan is people used to singalong to Dylan’s hooks and people sing along to entire songs by Sella. Not anthems, not axioms, but mouth full of mush intensely personal songs of low self-esteem and fractured friends and lovers, and, of course Sella himself: a tall, oddyshape, fringed 24 year old emotional shipwreck.

Along with drummer and childhood friend Brian Uychich, they are the Front Bottoms, a band as much the voice of their generation as the wonder Years and throughout a resolutely just OK set with the guitarist from You Blew It! adding heft and a keyboard player adding color, they had the entire audience, Say Anything’s audience singing, along to every single word of every single song. Brian is an unprepossessing band leader, he plays acoustic guitar in an indie rock band so you gotta think, but he has a voice like broken glass and he is intense and… the band open with “Flashlight” and the band songs along to this “when I’m sad oh god I’m sad and when I’m happy oh god I’m happy” which kinda makes sense but also to this:

“She’s says a lot of the kids we graduated with are now homeless
which puts them in mad shady situations with mad shady people
if not everyday then on an every other day basis
And she’s probably with a few of them right now
and they are probably just drinking and talking about
how she misses getting fucked up and hanging around
And he says “Hey you’re good at that” and she says “Thanks, it’s kind of all I got,”
and then she looks away and says “It’s also all I need.”

It’s weird, it is like everybody singing along to “It was said that a new person had appeared on the sea-front: a lady with a little dog. Dmitri Dmitritch Gurov, who had by then been a fortnight at Yalta, and so was fairly at home there, had begun to take an interest in new arrivals. Sitting in Verney’s pavilion, he saw, walking on the sea-front, a fair-haired young lady of medium height, wearing a béret; a white Pomeranian dog was running behind her.” The Chekhov reference isn’t by accident,  it just adds to the confusion at the heart of the Front Bottoms: the big guy doesn’t write songs really meant to be sung along to, he has no “oh well whatever nevermind”. He writes songs like a guy telling stories about his friends and lovers, he  does this and not to admit it is to ignore his true gift, or even the artists gift, able to turn on reality to his own designs. But he is also this everyman. He is a Soupy Campbell only younger though, at 24, still with a distance in age between himself and his audience.

The second song in the 35 minute set was “Skeleton” -about being stoned in the front of a car. Literally. That’s what it’s about. But watch this, in a commentary on Spotify, Sella claims it certainly IS NOT about him and people who claim to have gotten stoned with him are lying. The song “The Beers”, performed later in the set, has Sella claiming to have taken steroids so as to muscle up for a woman. So I would claim this is probably not true either: there is so much distance between the what happens to Sella and what he sings about; it is a giant chasm and on stage the band doesn’t fill it, the fans do.

This is one of the problems facing the Front Bottoms, there is a minimalism to the band, on their current EP Rose,  “Jim Bogart”, which includes a horn and a duet with a chick singer, seems to show where the Front Bottoms may want to be going even though it is a re-recording. The band are considered indie rock pop but they are really post-modern folkies and they will live with this big cult audience refracting experience and melody, a little generic in sound but always captivating enough.

On stage, they suffer the same fate as the other two opening bands, You Blew It! and the So So Glows, too twee for rock, too rough for indie pop, they seem to have no center and are difficult to react to. Obviously, Emo is the real reference point (they are opening for Say Anything). Both You Blew It! and the So So Glos, they can both build up walls of melodic sound like mbv, nay more JAMC, but on Xanax, the name of a So So Glos songs. I was a little surprised the Brooklyn band the  So So Glos (they are part of the Shea Stadium scene) weren’t a little more vicious in their attack, but I bet at Shea I’d have gotten it better. Orlando’s You Blew It! has a great guitarist. And any nitpicking with either band is a little sour grapes-y. They were both pretty good.

So were the Front Bottoms. with every single thing at their fingertips, they were OK, they were pretty good. Plus, I’ve called em indie pop and I’ve called em emo and folk, but essentially they are just a rock band with a lead singer who taps into a sense of a dream which has become a part of  American youth at least since the 1990s, maybe since the late 1960s, of a dream, both personally and politically diminished. The kids remind me of English kids in the early 1970s, before punk hit, the kids then wondered if they would never even get a job, the kids today exude this Paradise Postponed vibe, and so does Brian. He is a stand in for his audience because his audience are not a mass with a single thought, but individuals struggling alone with a small support group and that’s the Front Bottoms story; that’s what they are. There is no “we’re the young generation” or “greatest generation”, everything is in a state of stasis or worse going steadily backwards. And even if they were not really kids, at 24 you are still young, they are really drowning. “There is comfort at the bottom of a swinging pool”? Hey man, I love you but no fucking way.

Grade: B


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