The Little Band – S/T / The Bathroom Mirror

The Little Band
S/T / The Bathroom Mirror

The Little Band was one of several bands Bill Foreman played in, including his solo work. With this band, formed in 1992, he plays drums and sings, and Jack Devine plays electric guitar with Will Stephens on bass. This is probably the most consistent of the recordings of Bill Foreman’s work that I’ve heard. While most of Foreman’s work harkens to storytelling and folk, The Little Band draws as much influence from Husker Du and other garage-rock bands as late 60’s rock-and-roll. Devine’s guitarwork is really the basis for this album, and Foreman is able to devote more time to his rhythm and singing, which is still heartfelt if not exactly perfect. The band played off and on until 1997, when they broke up and recorded this group of songs for posterity.
“Can’t Wait to Be Free” from The Little Band has hints of late 60’s rock as well as modern garage rock, flowing along at a perfect pace and having some amazing guitar that reminds me of Bob Mould. “From a Miserable Dive” must take a few pages from Creedence Clearwater Revival and similar bands, adding more power guitar to the mix but crafting a fine rock song. It also has a lengthy and quite impressive guitar solo mid-way through that brings back the days when guitar solos were cool and amazing things. “Footsteps,” with its Lynyrd Skynyrd-like guitar solo, is a heartfelt and pretty song that does have a folk-rock feel to it. And “Bad Boy” is pure cock-rock, think early Stones. Foreman’s lyrics again shine on this album, such as in the catchy “Rare and True,” when he sings “There were some who called us lost, said, ‘love always has its cost.’ You said their hearts were only filled with violence. But suddenly you turned the key, rejoined the outside world without me. But, can’t you see you can’t be free? We’ll be locked inside our hearts for eternity.” “Vandalized” has a Neil Young and Crazy Horse feel to it, and “Imagine You’re Flying” rocks probably the hardest of all, with wailing guitar and great drums.
The Bathroom Mirror is more of Foreman’s solo work, which is more heavily influenced by folk-rock and features his songwriting abilities. Of course, it also showcases his voice, which is sometimes harsh but always full of feeling. This album has the feel of being a bit more chaotic or incohesive, in part due to the scrawled lyrics in the book that comes along and the varied song structure. Take “You!” for example, which has Foreman just strumming the guitar chordlessly and singing “You, by the swimming pool,” or such. “These Pictures on My Wall” is mostly Foreman singing (wailing) out his lyrics to some barely perceptible guitar. “Delia” is a traditional folk song, and Foreman lends his own introspective quietness to the track. “Where the Wind Blows” is another favorite, with some stellar acoustic guitar and pretty, rhyming lyrics. The title track is a very heartfelt ballad, with lines like, “You’re still a part of me, and you’re lost somewhere in the city. You’re still a part of me. You left your beating heart in me.” And the album ends with the hauntingly quiet and somber “Flute Song.”
The Little Band is pure fun, equal parts throw-back rock-and-roll and garage rock intensity (it was recorded in a garage, actually). But it doesn’t have the charm that Foreman’s solo work has, such as on The Bathroom Mirror. While the music on his solo work is secondary to his lyrics, it’s still strong and is all that’s required. It’s the lyrics, and Foreman still writes a story into a song today better than just about anyone I can think of.