Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Review: Niki Barr Band - Bloom

Label: self-released

Released: May 24, 2008

I had the chance to catch the Niki Barr Band open for the Cult a few months back and they were an outstanding live band. They played with the confidence and intensity of a headliner, not the caution and tentativeness of a local band opening for an international act. However, when I heard their previous releases, Lush and Go, I was disappointed. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad, but it lacked so much of what made their live set so good.

A lot has changed since those releases though and their new EP, Bloom finds the emphasis move from Niki Barr to band. This is the first time that all four members have contributed in all stages of the process and it shows. They've taken a harder approach this time and while songs like "Undivided" and "Alone" can tread a little too heavily in alt metal territory, they also have more edge and texture and that brings this album a little bit closer to their live show. On these first two tracks, they've tried to solidify their sound within the boundaries of rock music, making execution their strength rather than pushing the boundaries.

Things get a little more interesting after that though. "So Cruel" deals more in dissonance and sees the band stretching out a bit. "Burn" has a vaudeville feel that builds in intensity (and weird, creepy energy) until it begins to break apart, but it never does and that's the mark of a band that's onto something good. In a vague way, it reminds me of the trial sequence for The Wall (which is one of the few things Roger Waters did right on that album). "Drowsy" splits the difference between the more straightforward tracks and the tangents of the experiments, ending on a strong note. The doors are now open to experimentation and, despite not stepping all the way through them, the band is clearly on the right path to the Niki Barr Band sound.

Bloom is a solid set of songs. The vocals are richer, the music sharper and the band is more cohesive and focused. They sound better as individual musicians and better as a unit and strong production gives them a bigger, crunchier sound. As good as they were live a few months ago, I have even higher hopes now.

Catch the Niki Barr Band performing the new material at their CD release show on May 24th at the 8X10 in Baltimore.

Satriani: 7/10
Zappa: 5/10
Dylan: 6/10
Aretha: 6/10
Overall: 6/10



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