The Bleeding Obvious – The Bleeding Obvious – Album Review
When you read the backstory behind Jessica Rowbottom’s new project, The Bleeding Obvious, you really start to root for this artist early on. I admire the ambition she’s taken on…this self-titled record contains many a collaborator in its quest to bring these songs to life; names like Scott Wainwright, Anthony Jackson-Stubbs, Ruby Macintosh and poet Ralph Dartford all lend their talent to The Bleeding Obvious – and the result is an artistic album full of different concepts, ideas, sounds and styles. Clearly nothing was left off the table when it came to the ideas you’ll find on this record…all kinds of wildness & creativity was accepted. Like I said…you root for this crew that Rowbottom has enlisted…it’s not all that often you’ll run into an album that’s as free to do as it pleases as you’ll find on The Bleeding Obvious.
Now…like many artistically-inclined projects that have come before – some of the ideas that Jessica has created here will likely resonate more strongly with you than others. Nothing wrong with making a versatile record that explores a lot of styles & sounds, but generally speaking, the lineup of songs ends up getting shrunken down to the type that make the greatest connection with us and others will end up left behind in favor of what you like best. No different than all albums really – but more defined in how the decision actually comes to your brain, ears and experience…it wouldn’t be so much a case of a weaker song by a band you love as it would be an altogether different style, sound & atmosphere; some will dig that amount of diversity, risk and creativity whereas many others need something much more straight-forward. So tap into the artistic & imaginative side of your brainwaves for this one…it’ll help!
As far as I’ve read and researched, “Splendid!” is both the opening to the album as well as being the first single from The Bleeding Obvious. GOOD CHOICE. Seriously…this goes from straight-up playful in sound in the intro to all-out playfully-serious very quickly; the moment that “Splendid!” jumps into its groove, this song really takes off. The vibe is decidedly electro-influenced and really has personality…whether it’s the robotic vocals or the female lead, as a first experience, “Splendid!” almost can’t help but make an impact. I’d have brought the female-lead vocals down and into the mix a bit more personally…they’re powerful enough to break through the massive sounds of the music in “Splendid!” but when they do rise above the rest of the mix to a certain height, it almost makes the music sound smaller as a result whereas having more balance there might have led to a stronger overall listening experience. I dig the energy and I dig the uniqueness here in this opening cut…the writing itself presents exciting, unexplored ideas; you could perhaps make comparisons to a band like Mint Royale…but largely, The Bleeding Obvious are clearly out to explore new ideas and terrain within music. I’m cool with that!
Here’s the thing though…if you’re going to make a song that’s less than one-minute be THIS awesome…well then I get to freakin’ talk about it like it’s a full-length track and sing its praises. “Special Snowflake” gets its electro-jam right ON – and even though this second-tune is merely seconds in length, it absolutely hits the mark of electrifying entertainment! Rowbottom’s project shows INCREDIBLE strength in the sense of restraint here…I would have been inclined to keep this 8-bit jam rolling on all day long…the fact that The Bleeding Obvious managed to reign this short & sweet cut to just less-than a minute long is a testament to the amount of ideas presented on this record. There are SO MANY by the end of the experience that you realize they can afford to let a sweet electro-jam like this end at not-even a full-minute in length…and just move on to the next stunning idea and ambition.
What really works completely, unquestionably and instantly is the gorgeous performance and writing of “You And I (Always Fighting)” – 100% impressed with this tune. Quite often in music, as writers we search for making something old become something new again…and this is how you do it! “You And I (Always Fighting)” is a brilliant example of reaching back into the history of music to really pull out a melody that sounds right out of the golden-era of the 50’s/60’s and putting just enough of a spin on it through production, performance and delivery that it can make a modern-day impact. I personally cannot express just how much joy “You And I (Always Fighting)” put into me each time it came on; don’t think me heartless as the subject-matter of the song isn’t exactly ‘happy’ per-se…I’m just saying it’s an incredible tune. The vocal melody and how well it works with the bass, percussion, piano and sliding guitar tones…it’s exquisite stuff…a seriously beautiful gem of a tune brought to life through the exceptional style in the vocals and stunning ideas in the writing. Without question – this was an early highlight on The Bleeding Obvious that held up strongly every time I heard it – LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this tune!
If you’re comparing accessibility in the writing and sound…there are entire worlds of difference between “You And I (Always Fighting)” and a track like “I, Human.” This is that border…that line in the sand…THIS is where you find out if you’re really with The Bleeding Obvious or if you’re not. They’ve got my attention firmly fixed – I love music like this that incorporates spoken-word poetry or readings…but of course it’s notably far from typical for most people out there. This is the truly artistic-side of The Bleeding Obvious…and personally, again, I salute this effort. Before the words even started I was impressed with the mix on the low-end of “I, Human” and how rich, bold & thick it was…and I think that a smart choice has been made in making a track like this bend toward that artistic-side rather than take it to a more typical direction. The soundscape is vibrant, pulsing and presents a cornucopia of textures as it plays with different electro-elements, samples and transitions entering the mix. The entire atmosphere of the vocals nearly makes you wonder if he’s going to announce whether or not it’s our turn for our ration of Soylent Green; I loved the themes in this tune and the astute commentary on society that runs deep throughout the words.
Really liked the soft inviting opening to “Double Hard” – part of me wished it had stayed in that gentle mood & mode as the 80’s-esque synth sounds took over. Here’s the thing about bouncy, rubbery synth sounds like these…you can’t do much to resist’em! I’ll fully admit…it’s not a sound I personally search out…but it’s that crisp snap and sound of the synth-bass that also gets the body movin.’ You definitely feel the rhythm in this one and it does tend to grow on you quickly; for myself personally, it was the addition of the flute sounds that really took this track to that next-level…I thought that was an insightful layer to have added into this tune. Overall “Double Hard” has a noticeable old-school vibe that runs through its writing and sound…but somehow, I’ll admit, this tune won me over. Compared with the energy and instant captivation/entertainment that “Not Dead (Yet)” provides though and the uniqueness of “I, Human” before it – “Double Hard” also has one of the tougher spots on the record. I felt like the vocals on “Not Dead (Yet)” were easily forgiven any tiny imperfections in favor of the vibrant & inspired nature of their delivery and overall uniqueness in the writing. Another shorter tune for The Bleeding Obvious…but another one that worked incredibly well with an atmosphere that completely catches your ear – “Not Dead (Yet)” is a ton of genuine FUN to listen to…and I LOVED the backing vocals in this track – great ideas on display inside this tune shown in subtle, clever & effective ways. You’ll love the way this track opens-up with a record-scratch & quick twang of guitar before jumping into its infectious groove and empowering vibe.
I will admit…”Not Dead (Yet)” probably still appeals a bit more to the artistic-side of the crowd of listeners out there than the extremely widespread, accessible sounds of a song like “Put Your Arms Around Me.” No doubt about this being a serious highlight – “Put Your Arms Around Me” is 100% single worthy…you can feel it in the perfect placement of those piano notes as the opening begins. Breaking way to an absolutely stellar performance on the vocals…this song becomes exceptionally beautiful at its every turn and never quits moving. Again reminiscent of Mint Royale or perhaps even Protection-era Massive Attack with a bit more pep in its step – the hypnotic groove and insatiable vibe of “Put Your Arms Around Me” is wonderfully intoxicating. When I read that a track like “Splendid!” is the lead-single…I have to assume that a track like this can’t be far behind to follow it up – “Put Your Arms Around Me” instantly takes hold of you and never lets go…a real song that everyone out there can dig.
Really liked the ideas that drive the spoken-word “Sailing Alone” and its clever departure from what we’d just heard in “Put Your Arms Around Me.” Smart placement leads this tune to standout in nearly impossible circumstances following such an incredible tune…and its uniqueness in the combination of jazz/electro/spoken-word end up becoming quite entertaining. A lot of texture, atmosphere and artistic ideas roaming throughout this short tune…you won’t be hearing “Sailing Alone” on the radio exactly any time soon but not every song is made for that reason. On albums like this that are driven largely by concepts and themes that connect the overall idea…tiny interludes like this matter and really help the cohesion of the record. Besides that…the low-end of “Sailing Alone” is extremely powerful and in combination with the piano and flute sounds in behind the spoken-word weather-update…it’s all actually quite effective and ends up really being a fascinating composition worth repeating.
Perhaps the best example of cross-contamination between the artistic-side and accessible-side of the music of The Bleeding Obvious comes through the wild & vibrant twists in the writing and ideas on “Runaway.” Great combination of musicianship, poetry, electro, singing…I mean…they collectively throw everything they’ve got at this one and it ends up completely working in their favor. “Runaway” is highly imaginative, passionate and expertly assembled…there’s hooks for both the mainstream and indie crowd to get down on – know what I mean? The singing supplies easy-to-access, inviting melodies that are dissolved beautifully into the music while the poetic-nature of the verse provides an interesting and emotional narrative that fits perfectly alongside the lyrics of the chorus; truly a clever composition here…each part contributing manages to shine brightly in its own way and the resulting combination of all these parts seriously makes for an innovative and imaginative adventure in sound.
“Can’t Come Home” felt like the kind of song I’d normally put more resistance into fighting against…but truthfully, I was impressed on how this tune won me over through repetition. There are fantastic performances on this tune in the vocals that really provide depth in the personality and attitude of the atmosphere. “Can’t Come Home” is a derivative-reggae style song…which explains my own personal initial resistance…but rather than go for the sunshine and beaches of what’s typically found in the genre, The Bleeding Obvious take this track to a more mythical and melancholy place…and that’s what I thought really worked here. The groove supplied through the punchy bass-line drives this song perfectly at a more pensive & cautious pace that really leads this entire song to victory. Excellent drum sounds and additional electro-elements in behind the main melody-line…eventually the swirl in the combination of everything all together really gives “Can’t Come Home” a solid, hypnotic and rhythmic groove. Probably the song that surprised me the most in its ability to take me into an entire style I wouldn’t normally listen to and truly enjoy myself.
Where it dropped a little for me was also a bit of a surprise. “Wallflower” has some good ideas in the music and samples…but perhaps the toughest to love when it came to both the writing/pacing on the lyrics and resulting performance. You can hear a bit of struggle with the metering on this one…and that extra caution leads to the vocals slightly holding back through the verse. Chorus-wise, I think “Wallflower” also struggled with raising-up the energy from where it started in the verse…which kind of makes the entire 3:30 fly by as one solid moment in time as opposed to the versatility we’ve heard in the writing of the rest of the tunes so far. The additional vocal-samples on “Wallflower” gave it something…the music itself is highly energetic and creative in its breakdowns…the vocals have moments of victory and solid, confident tones but at times also sound a tad unsure of this one. The final ninety-seconds are the strongest part of this tune but still feel like they’ve missed capitalizing on the full ambition of this particular idea on The Bleeding Obvious.
“Rock Chick” leads to another surprise…this is where the record takes a turn towards tongue-in-cheek attitude, humor and bold electric tones. With a savage bass-line and absolutely beastly guitar-solo – “Rock Chick” is decidedly more ‘Funk Chick’ than it is anything ‘rock’ overall – but all titles and labels aside…this tune was a lot of fun in my opinion. I truly wasn’t expecting to find myself on the side of “Rock Chick” after its flamboyant and theatrical opening on the vocals…but MAN…this FITS. So what’s a boy to do right? I can’t help it if The Bleeding Obvious just up and decide to plant a sick funk groove towards the end of the record and it takes over the stereo here – that’s on them, not me! I think this cut maybe took one or two spins and I was fully singing along with it…this one is like…hazardously contagious and catchy…just sayin.’ You’ve been warned. There’s something decidedly strange in a Thomas Dolby or B-52’s kinda way here with the same captivating grip that the wonder of enthusiasm truly provides…best way I can describe it.
And DON’T let The Bleeding Obvious FOOL you! They’re clearly here to make us LEARN. They don’t let you in on it at first throughout the initial twelve songs…but here it is…track thirteen you discover that this is indeed a learning album. Sesame Street tries the same darn thing – just so happens, this album is brought to us by “XXY!” Okay, okay…it’s probably more coincidence that I’ve drawn to this conclusion than it is planned by The Bleeding Obvious…and aside from all the madness I’ve written here, it’s a seriously tight little groove they’ve got goin’ throughout its thirty-three seconds in length. Makes for a good lead-in to the smooth vibes of the soulful & R&B sounds of “Bittersweet Goodbye” as well…with the quick tones of an answering machine switching on and into the groove – it’s like equal parts of something like Johnny Gill and INXS’ Michael Hutchence in the vocal department…but the overall approach and sound is as smooth as it gets. Excellent saxophone parts rip through the background on this tune and really provide some highlight solo-moments in and around the backing vocals. Great pacing, sleek & steady tones…”Bittersweet Goodbye” is a seriously satisfying listen that incorporates fantastic musicianship, vocals, rhythm & skill in its every smooth move.
I might have switched positions with “Bittersweet Goodbye” and the final tune “Me Myself And I” – personally I felt like “Bittersweet Goodbye” had already given me the satisfying ending I was looking for on this record and “Me Myself And I” ended up feeling like ‘the last word’ of sorts. It’s an entertaining song…and I think if it hadn’t come after the satisfying conclusion that it felt like “Bittersweet Goodbye” provided it might have had more impact. I think the string sounds and extra drama that creeps into the music works well here…the atmosphere is once again complex, strong and unique as far as that goes. Wasn’t quite as much of a fan of the vocals for this particular tune…but again, a tough spot to be in after everything came out so well on “Bittersweet Goodbye” did beforehand; there’s character and idea in “Me Myself And I” and redemptive qualities in the structure, assembly and performance of the music and ideas here.
I know I’ve written several words here…but if there’s one to sum it up, it’s versatile. The Bleeding Obvious have created a very artistic and ambitious record here and yielded some exceptional results to go along with it. Like all art…the angle of which we hold it up to examine it counts for a lot…and repeated listens will certainly lead you to discovering multiple facets in the writing that deserve your attention. Great depth, great ideas that are truly unique and a genuinely professional approach to making these songs spring to life with charisma, charm and real character. Green light to this project – The Bleeding Obvious have certainly created authentic & entertainment with all kinds of new ideas for your ears to absorb.
Find out more about The Bleeding Obvious at the official site http://bleedingobvious.uk/ and get ready for the release of the self-titled album coming out officially on November 17th!