When the likes of Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry and Henry Rollins are singing your praises then you must be doing something right, as would appear to be the case with Woodstock, New York outfit The Bobby Lees. The band consist of Sam Quartin – vocals/guitar, Macky Bowman – drums, Nick Casa – guitar, Kendall Wind on Bass and they formed around 2017/2018.
To further the band’s street cred, previous albums Beauty Pageant (2018) and Skin Suit (2020) were produced by the underground legend that is Jon Spencer of The Blues Explosion, Pussy Galore and Boss Hog. Therefore Bellevue (which is a reference to Bellevue Mental Hospital in New York City where Sam used to live by), their third album in total and first for Ipecac Recordings, brings with it high expectations, but are these met? Let’s see…
Bellevue breezes by in one minute twenty-three seconds, high octane, sneering vocals and blistering drums that recall Black Flag’s debut release Nervous Breakdown. No wonder Rollins was so impressed. Hollywood Junkyard is like Napoleon XIV’s They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa! as covered by an Amphetamine Reptile noise-rock outfit. If you pardon my crass bluntness its absolutely bonkers but brilliantly so. For Ma Likes To Drink think Daisy Chainsaw with an unhinged vocal performance ala KatieJane Garside, there are also surf inflections that recall tracks like It’s A Hectic World by the Descendents. A certified belter and no mistake.
Death Train is Motörhead jamming with The Dead Kennedys, Philthy Animal drumming and San Francisco punk swagger while Strange Days is an odd but effective combination of Murakami literary references and campish musical cabaret, making for a pleasant diversion from the otherwise breakneck punk rock blitzkrieg. Dig Your Hips is a catchy number and it’s of no great surprise that a video was made for it, think the punk-blues of The Gun Club on amphetamines and you’ll get the picture, it’s like the late great Jeffrey Lee Pierce never left us, deliciously sleazy.
Have You Seen A Girl has tinges of 7 Year Bitch, giving the track a Riot Grrrl grungey metal attack and In Low follows in a similar vein but with some additional garage-rock Runaways/Joan Jett influence in tow. Little Table is another experimental oddity with some smokey jazz influences, if Amy Winehouse (RIP) sang in a punk band she might have gone for a similar vibe.
Monkey Mind is absolutely ramshackle, threatening to fall apart at any moment with its random piano sounds, strange reggae inflected vocals and manically unusual time signatures that evoke The Replacements at their most rambunctious, meanwhile Greta Van Fake would appear to be a brutal yet justified takedown of Greta Van Fleet, a band so lacking in originality its positively painful. Be My Enemy again taps into vintage rock ‘n’ roll and Motörhead’s Ace Of Spades badass attitude, finally Mystery Theme Song is an instrumental that concludes the album in a surf-rock meets Static Age era Misfits fashion.
Although the influences are distinctive, the band never at any point feel derivative (unlike the aforementioned Greta Van Fleet). In answer to my earlier question, The Bobby Lees haven’t just met expectations, they have smashed them. So much so that even a cynical and jaded 43-year-old sod like myself can appreciate the sheer gumption, heart and soul that has gone into the making of this record, there wasn’t a second moment wasted on the album, or to put it another way, it’s all killer, no filler. Hank Rollins, we salute you for bringing this band to Ipecac‘s attention.
Scribed by: Reza Mills