The Bobby Lees | Bellevue
The cover of Bellevue, the Vance Powell-produced third album from Woodstock quartet the Bobby Lees, finds frontwoman Sam Quartin crouching in a farm pen with mud-splattered coveralls, a discarded microphone, and a distracted pig. The image immediately calls to mind Linda Ronstadt's classic 1970 LP Silk Purse—which, like Bellevue, was recorded in Nashville—but anyone searching for a similarly bucolic listening experience would be advised to look elsewhere. Pastoral vibes and country-fried tunefulness are not what the Bobby Lees do; but if you're in the mood for snarling, agitated garage punk that quivers and flails like a skeleton desperately trying to shed its skin, then Bellevue has definitely got what you need.
Onstage and on record, Quartin is the band's obvious focal point. Whether sinking her fangs into delusions of stardom ("Hollywood Junkyard"), wrestling with her overactive brain ("Monkey Mind"), or coming on like an unhinged torch singer ("Little Table"), she injects Bellevue's songs—many of which were inspired by a nine-month mental breakdown she experienced a few years before the band's formation—with menace and dark humor. You're never entirely sure where she's going, or how much of herself is in the character she's portraying, which makes for a deeply compelling sense of tension. Bandmates Nick Casa (lead guitar), Kendall Wind (bass), and Macky Bowman (drums) telepathically follow Quartin's every mood and move, amping up the chaos ("Ma Likes to Drink") or dialing it down to an unsettling simmer ("Strange Days") as needed. And they put the maraschino cherry on this 13-track Molotov cocktail with a rumbling Link Wray-style closing track ("Mystery Theme Song"), leaving you stunned, exhausted, and wanting much, much more.