Avi Buffalo - Avi Buffalo - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Avi Buffalo - Avi Buffalo

by Pete Sykes Rating:8.5 Release Date:2010-04-26

Teenagers. Sullen, smelly, spotty, ugly, loud, moody and spoiled. Horrible, aren't they? In less civilised times, children were either sent to work at the age of five, or kept under lock and key until they'd developed into actual human beings, whereupon they were released into polite society. Now, go into any town centre and you'll see them loitering outside Topshop or McDonalds, shouting, flirting badly, throwing bits of hamburger at each other and generally being annoying. We were all teenagers once, but any decent person should look back on their teenage years as a horrifying ordeal, full of shame, social awkwardness and Cronenberg-esque physical horror.

So you wouldn't want to listen to an album of teenage poetry and sexual angst, would you? Are you sure? Because that's exactly what the debut album from Avi Buffalo is, and it's one of the loveliest things I've heard all year. Lead singer Avi Zahner-Isenberg is a precocious 19-year old Californian who formed the band while still at school; in his words, most of the songs on this self-titled debut are "about being sexually frustrated...It's not like, 'I love you'. It's more about feeling angry with myself and the world." Ominous as that sounds, two things elevate the record above standard teen whininess. One is Zahner-Isenberg's talent for bizarre, playful imagery (lips are "like little pieces of bacon" on the fantastic single 'What's in it For?'). The other is the fact that, despite his tender age, Avi's music has a timeless, sun-drenched West Coast feel, recalling everything from The Byrds and Crosby, Stills and Nash through to Pavement and The Shins. The jangling guitars and gorgeous harmonies serve as a bright counterpoint to the darkly surreal lyrics.

Opener 'Truth Sets In' begins languidly, before gently distorted guitars and the soft, high-pitched vocals of Avi and keyboardist Rebecca Coleman sweep the track lazily along. Not a great deal happens, but it's all quite wonderful. 'What's in it For?' is as fresh as a summer breeze, those ubiquitous clear, ringing guitar tones and some ingenious harmonies on the chorus reacting together blissfully. 'Five Little Sluts' begins, uncharacteristically, in a minor key, and provides a vehicle for Avi's sometimes incomprehensible lyrics of sexual insecurity ("Kissing in the flaccid points between our sin-soaked minds"), but it does have a classy Neil Young-esque chorus. Best of all is the ickily-titled 'Summer Cum', which is built around a simple, sublime melody and, like all the best tracks on the album, is realised with wonderful efficiency (two guitars, two vocals and a beat), clarity and warmth.

There are a couple of duff tracks here - 'Jessica' is a bit too whiny, while 'Remember Last Time' stretches too little out over too long - but the quality of the songs is impressively high and the record is always inviting and never wearing. In fact the only negative reaction you may have is a sharp pang of jealousy that a group of kids could have produced a record that sounds so classic, so accomplished and yet so vibrant. Rarely has teenage angst been so charming and appealing.

Pete Sykes

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