Harlan T Bobo - A History of Violence (Goner)
Once the intro to opener “Human” gives way to its fully-realized sonic purpose, it’s obvious that Harlan T. Bobo’s fourth proper album, A History of Violence, is quite different from his previous body of work. The classic historical emotional heft of a songwriter trying to make sense of life’s chaos—think mid-’70s Lou Reed, especially Coney Island Baby—is a thread running through the album’s mid-tempo tracks like “Human” and the miniature literary tragedy that is “Nadine.” The punchier tracks on the album, like “Spiders,” conjure very early Green On Red, what X’s mid-’80s output could have been, or even the roots-rock tendencies of overlooked genius Cass McCombs. This album highlights Bobo’s whiskey-and-cigarette-informed vocal style, and on the more intimate tracks, a distorted ear candy that warbles into increasingly sunken, uncomfortable places, like that of the songwriter with which comparisons have followed Bobo throughout his career: the late Leonard Cohen. But there is a richer canvas on which to work this time out, not to mention a decidedly heavier and darker one. The album was recorded in Memphis with Doug Easley, who has previously worked with Cat Power, Pavement, Wilco, Sonic Youth, Jon Spencer, and Jeff Buckley. Bobo also brought in Steve Selvidge (The Hold Steady, Bash & Pop) on bass and Jeff “Bunny” Dutton (Action Family) on guitar, along with regular contributors Jeff Bouck (Polyphonic Spree) and Brendan Spangler (Viva l’American Death Ray). The result is a naturally dynamic album that seems equally at home with howling guitars and heavy bass lines as it does with haunting piano and humble pleas. A History Of Violence is Bobo’s most complex—and complete—album to date.