Bound Stems – Appreciation Night

Bound Stems
Appreciation Night

There is no possible way anyone can make it through this album with out thinking Isaac Brock has moved to Chicago. The further into Bound Stems’ full-length debut Appreciation Night you listen, the more the difference between flattery and imitation become obscured. In the first few songs such as “Andover” and “Western Biographic,” singer/guitarist Bobby Gallivan merely sounds like the Modest Mouse front man. Midway through he captures the same effect Brock uses, sounding like he’s singing through the high end of a wah pedal. And finally it comes to a head on “Rented A Tent (a Tent, a Tent)” where he dabbles with plagiarism, singing “It’s a long way down/you don’t need that from anyone.” Gallivan has obviously studied The Lonesome Crowded West well.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, it’s not such a bad thing. Bound Stems have been gaining momentum and building up a good share of praise from places such as the New York Times, Spin & Alternative Press. Throw in former Harvey Danger drummer Evan Sult and they’ve got a veteran familiar with the wheel of the industry. There is a lot to like about Appreciation. The songs are full of a loose sort of tension, periodically shifting directions with the change of a chorus or verse, bringing to mind an early day Dismemberment Plan. The new version of “Wake Up, Ma And Pa Are Gone” from 2005’s The Logic Of Building The Body Plan EP remains a stand out, culminating in a buzzing guitar solo over an anguished chorus of “yeah yeah yeah’s.” On the aforementioned “Western Biographic” the guitars manage to simultaneously chug and slice through the middle of the song and the addition of female vocals, prevalent throughout the album, give “Excellent News, Colonel” an extra push into a distorted sweetness.

More importantly, Bound Stems’ strength is in the rock of indie rock and doing so with no trace of super hip-ness or smarmy cynicism. They may cite Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and resident Chicago poet Thax Douglas in their lyrics but won’t hold it against you if you didn’t immediately know it.

As with most bands starting out, their influences show a little too clearly. Given some time, Bound Stems will grow and become a regular name in these circles. Appreciation Night is a fine starting point that earns the band their good attention. Just remember, before they were plastered on M2, Modest Mouse was once written off as Built To Spill imitators.