Buffalo Tom – Let Me Come Over (deluxe reissue)

Buffalo Tom – Let Me Come Over (deluxe reissue)

It’s hard for this writer to retain rigorous objectivity when it comes to Buffalo Tom’s third and finest album, Let Me Come Over.  These ears know virtually its every crotchet and quaver as well as its soaring heights and forgivable flaws, with the comforting familiarity of a life-long friend.  Introduced to the LP belatedly by a university years mentor of sorts, a few years after its initial 1992 release, Let Me Come Over was this scribe’s soundtrack to a long summer holiday of travelling and temp jobs.  Listening again in 2017, with older and hopefully wiser lobes, reassuringly reveals that such youthful fondness for its rugged charms was not as misguided as contemporaneous barbershop decisions.

Now bolstered by a 1992 London concert bonus disc, Let Me Come Over maintains its status as the best all-round Buffalo Tom recorded statement and as one of the finest moments to emerge from the fertile late-‘80s/early-‘90s Boston music scene.  Although very much a product of lineage and locality, the band’s eponymous 1988 debut and 1990’s Birdbrain LP had already packed-in enough heart-on-the-sleeve fervour beneath de rigueur Hüsker Dü/Dinosaur Jr.-schooled guitar squall to suggest that Buffalo Tom were more than just your average plaid-shirted power-trio.  What Let Me Come Over added to such opening promise was yearning warmth, tighter team-working and more considered craftsmanship.  Whilst it contains a strong suite of energetically delivered live-friendly perennials, it’s not the product of a perfunctory plug-in-and-play studio visit.

An unashamedly deliberate scene-setter, the opening “Staples” openly reveals the core ingredients that make Let Me Come Over cook so satisfyingly.  With its prominent melodic Mike Mills-like bass-line from Chris Colbourn, driving yet grunge-free drums from Tom Maginnis and rhythm-heavy layered guitar lines from Bill Janovitz, supporting the latter’s emotively-growled lyrical plea to “Staple my hands to my heart”, the threesome calibrate a sturdy democratic focus and intent from the very start.  Thereafter, the rest of the record just stacks high-upon-high to redemptive effect.  Hence, there are a string of could-have-been-hit anthems in the shape of the Bruce Springsteen-meets-Grant Hart gut-spilling “Taillights Fade”; the sprightly percussive Replacements-indebted “Velvet Roof”; the soaring goose-bump-inducing “Porchlight”; and the buoyant Bob Mould-via-Highway 61 Revisited rush of “Saving Grace”.

With lattices of acoustic and electric guitars adroitly piled-up throughout the record, Let Me Come Over goes even deeper into rich yet earthy arrangements, to explore more eclectic idioms. From these less obvious corners springs the rapturous “Mountains Of Your Head” with its auxiliary barrelling barroom pianos and “Sympathy For The Devil”-tinged backing vocals; the beatific battered-up Byrdsian jangle of “Mineral”; the utterly majestic lovelorn churn and chug of “Larry”; the rising and calming “Crutch”; and the divine campfire balminess of the largely unplugged “Frozen Lake”.

And what now of those aforementioned acknowledged imperfections?  Even though the somewhat dirge-like “Stymied” still perhaps sounds nobler in its earlier unplugged Fortune Teller EP incarnation, the Let Me Come Over take has aged into a more likeable Lived To Tell-era Eleventh Dream Day stirring shredder.  Similarly, Chris Colbourn’s two Marmite-dipped lead vocal moments seem to have become more endearing with the benefit of time; with the pummelling “Darl” now more recognisable as a spirited power-pop reimagining of Clint Conley’s wares within Mission Of Burma and the still overstrained Americana-ingrained “I’m Not There” gaining a little more weathered charm.

While rewarding for long-time fans, the newly-appended live bonus disc is perhaps a slight disappointment.  Taped before the album’s original release it leans more heavily on extracts from the threesome’s first two long-players and thus it feels more about the group shaking-off the last shackles of their noise-rock roots, rather than revealing how Let Me Come Over would build its seminal status through intensive road-testing.  That said, it’s enjoyable to hear such impassioned readings of the then box-fresh “Larry” and “Taillights Fade” in amongst robustly-drilled sprints through the vintage likes of “Sunflower Suit”, “Birdbrain” and “Reason Why” as documentary evidence of Buffalo Tom’s on-stage prowess.

For all the repackaging enhancements here, it’s remarkable how Let Me Come Over as a self-contained collection continues to stand-up alongside – and even surpass – other likeminded classics from the same epoch.  Some things do indeed get even better with age…

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