Grant Lee Buffalo - Jubilee

NOT FOR EVERY AMERICAN BAND, THE wannabe-Lear Jet riding, heroin-embracing excess school of rock aspiration. They might instead just be tempted, as Frank Black once put it, to play music with some friends. Just add a little thrift-store chic and some Super-8 film and you're away. So goes the Grant Lee Buffalo story.

Since their Michael Stipe-sponsored inception, lead singer Grant Lee Phillips and friends provided us with opaque and melancholic psychodramas of love and redemption set against a background vision of a fading and failing America. A soothing and elegiac eye in the grunge hurricane.

'Jubilee', however, is the first effort without bassist and producer linchpin Paul Kimble, and stripped of his talents Grant Lee Phillips seems to have thrown an alt-rock coffee morning and enlisted the assistance of various luminaries such as E of Eels, Robyn Hitchcock and even Michael Stipe (yelping on 'Everybody Needs A Little Sanctuary'). With idiosyncrasies ironed out by 10,000 Maniacs producer Paul Fox, the resulting effort lacks the noir carnival touches which made earlier records shine. Only 'Superslomotion' (featuring retro keyboard chief Jon Brion) hints at former glories whereas 'APB' and 'Try' are, sadly, generic corn-fed pick-up truck AOR fodder.

Robbed of widespread acceptance, it seems GLB are calling in all the favours and pulling their most populist strings to help them break the stadiums. Trouble is, what's left is a perfunctory gathering of celebrity mates, and the sound of the careworn Buffalo soldiers themselves finally losing stomach for the battle.


Neil Thomson