Thursday, October 14, 2010

Review: Tumbledown “Empty Bottle”

Tumbledown is the brainchild of Mike Herrera, frontman for renowned 90s punk rockers MxPx. Combining his love for roots rock Americana (the likes of Woody Guthrie, Woody Nelson, Johnny Cash) with punk rock, Herrera has carved a rather unique niche out for Tumbledown. The two seemingly disparate musical genres actually have quite a lot in common – songs of hard luck sung with a lot of heart and a snotty attitude make up many of our country’s timeless classics. Tumbledown, which takes its name from the “tumbledown shacks” described in Guthrie’s biography, “takes the sepia-tinged image of Americana and sends it hurtling into the present”.

“Empty Bottle” is the latest from the band, following the notable self-titled debut (reviewed here). On this second release, Tumbledown sounds matured and comfortable, with Jack Parker providing plenty of licks and brothers Marshall and Harley Trotland providing plenty of kick on the stand up bass and drums. Bass is particularly important in this style of music and the country thumpin’ notes laid down here drive the music along like a rambling Ford truck speeding downhill on a worn dirt road. “Empty Bottle” may as well be a concept album about drinking, although other vices are usually mentioned as well. It’s not bad for a song or two, but such narrow lyrical themes begin to wear themselves out pretty quick. After the initial laughs, the lampshade over your head routine just isn’t funny anymore.

The raucous opener, “Places In This Town” is a promising way to start the record – classic Tumbledown sound with interesting chord changes and a big sing-a-long chorus. The bass in the title track is terrific, but it’s the chemistry of the band as a whole that makes “Meet The Devil” a better track overall. First single, “Arrested In El Paso Blues”, is a nod to Johnny Cash and will surely please fans of the first record. For my money, I’d bet on “Great Big World” and “Bad News” to be the favorites of new fans – these two are among the most radio-friendly songs the band has written. Finally, “A Thousand More Times” is a welcome change of pace, a ballad climaxing with some unexpected and effective strings.

Tumbledown delivers another solid slice of Americana punk, but it is a great big world indeed and I wish these guys would write about something other than drinking. Consequently, “Empty Bottle” goes down better as a quick shot rather than a fine wine.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 5, 8, 10

Tumbledown on MySpace. Official site.