Hey there! BossaNova back again with another album review! This time around we’ve got Budo Grape’s latest record, Amsterdam!
This one’s a very interesting album indeed. If you’re going to go listen to it while you’re reading this, take a second and turn the treble on your player all the way down, and bass all the way up. Especially if you can still hear Mosquito tones. It’s going to cause some damage otherwise.
So, Budo Grape is labelled as a lot of things, depending on where you go researching them. Pop-punk, Avant Garde Pop, New-Wave, Neo Funk; you name it, they’ve been called it. The confusion here comes from their sound usually being hard to describe. Amsterdam’s sound is pretty easy to describe, though: Take a kids’ show’s house band and try to get it to sound funky, but crank down the bassist because they’re mad at him or something; try to keep from expressing anything too extreme, or you’ll scare the kids. The result is an album of obnoxious, disjointed synthesizer melodies, bright and treble-heavy rhythm guitar, a rhythm section that seems just happy doing their own thing in the background, and vocals that, honestly, I could take or leave.
It showed promise with the opening track; it really did. I can dig some good chilled noise rock, and the ambient bleep-bloops over the oddly timed bass part do that trick pretty well. But when the actual songs come in, it’s like everyone decides to stop actually working together to make music. Bass and drums are locked together pretty well, as they should be, but it seriously seems like the only thing anyone else decided on was what key it was in. The rhythms between the “lead” parts are alienating to each other. The counter-melody from the synth to go with the vocals kills all catchiness that the vocal hook could have possibly had by further simplifying an already simple melody, like it wasn’t exactly sure how it really went. I get what they’re trying to do, though. The idea is that, by giving everyone their own, individual part, the song will automatically have depth and appeal to the initiated, trained, and curious ear. But it doesn’t always work that way; at some point you’ve got to work together and play the same thing as someone else; you can’t just play something that’s interesting to yourself and hope the rest of the band goes with it.
I mean, sure, Avant Garde’s supposed to be weird, or “off.” But real Avant Garde art comes from trying something new, different, and against the traditional way of thinking. And I don’t see anything new here. People have made bad sounding melodies before, used nasally synths, made the guitar go “chink” to play a rhythm, made the harmony singer only use two notes; everything about this has been done before. I really don’t want to go too far down the road of bashing these guys; underneath the lack of cooperation lies a lot of talent. When I first heard this, and before I did research on the band, I thought it was a first album from a bunch of guys that had been playing on their own for their whole lives and got really good at their instruments, but didn’t really know how to work as part of an ensemble. It’s a common problem; some guys really don’t know how to play when they’re not in the spotlight, and the only cure for that is experience and communication.
I’m pretty sure 13 years is enough experience to work that out, though.
All in all, I give this album a 5/10. I’m sure there’s some strange person that will like some of this strange music. Or at least someone will use the better tracks as a gateway to make them look cool and with it and whatever pretentious hipster nonsense they like. I’m gonna stick with music that knows what it’s doing 100% of the time, though. Couldn’t recommend this at all.
In the meantime, what did you think of this album? Was it interesting, mentally stimulating? Did it make you think of life in a different way? Do you think I’m just full of myself? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll be back in another 2 weeks with another hot n’ fresh music review!