Bivouac - Peel Sessions & Tuber Remastered

by D R Pautsch Rating:8 Release Date:2018-09-07
Bivouac - Peel Sessions & Tuber Remastered
Bivouac - Peel Sessions & Tuber Remastered

Twenty five years is a long time and the peak of the grunge movement is that old.  Some bands burnt out quick, other faded into gradual obscurity, and very few have endured and keep moving. The music, however, holds out hope that there might yet be a move back to guitar rock.  In that scene, some bands disappeared without a trace and Bivouac were one of those bands.  They recorded a great debut album, Tuber the subject of this re-issue, signed to a major label, appeared on the undercard for many of the great bands of the time, and then split after one more record and being dropped by their label only to reform only recently.  They recorded sessions with the radio legend that is John Peel, which are extras on this reissue, danced on stage with Nirvana and sounded unlike most of the music that has ever come out of the musical mecca that is Derby.  It should be noted that none of the three members actually came from Derby, mind.

For anyone who saw them, they were that band who rocked hard and promised much.  For this reviewer they were a moment in 1993 at Brixton Academy, the best live venue in London unless anyone can argue another, opening for their hero Bob Mould and his new band Sugar.   On a night that saw Sugar completely redeem a stinker at Great Expectations and Liz Phair win the hearts of many a fan Bivouac held their own.  A striking difference to Mould’s rocking stance on stage they were wild movement, energy, and hope.  They had a great debut in the bag and they knew it.  Their almost fifteen minutes were starting and they couldn’t wait.  Listening to Tuber after so many years that hope and energy fizzles through the echo of the years and is as strong a memory of the whole movement as many of the overplayed milestones of the time. 

With a sound between Stone Temple Pilots and grunge, the head down and rock approach of Bivouac is best heard on the Peel songs opener that is Drank.  Their song titles were always simple and their approach of picking up the pieces of a fuzzed guitar solo with an almost calm finish is given room here to flourish.  The Peel Sessions version shows that they could really play this card live with a version that starts off even slower before chopping the guitars about before unleashing noise and then playing the loud-quiet-loud card that was the calling card of every band of the era.  However, this sounds fresh and full of energy.  Good Day Song is as catchy now as it was then, launching straight into guitar and riffs before taking a back step of introspection and then returning to the scene if the crime.  Rye sounds like a Pearl Jam song caught midstream that descends into quick verses and strained choruses that slip into Soundgarden territory. Feedback is employed liberally throughout proceedings, especially to fill the sound on the slower numbers, this three-piece knew how to fill your ears.  The song titles were all straightforward but the lyrics often were slightly more involved, the Dinosaur Jr influenced Big Question Mark repeats the refrain ‘I’ll wear my flesh on the inside’ in such an insidious way that you are left with it indelibly in your brain.

Not everything works, the thankfully short The Need feels like it was an experiment that went wrong and at times when the energy relents the attention strays.  The additional Peel Sessions, they played for Peel three times, include non-Tuber tracks that stand just as strong as anything on their debut.  The slow build of Treepanning is a maelstrom waiting to happen and when the full force arrives it feels almost cathartic.  Having these nine tracks here is a great addition to this set.

Bivouac reformed on a throwaway remark in a newspaper column.  All these years on their work sounds as good now as it did then.  It lacked something many of Seattle’s exports had in terms of star quality, but these three working men from our shores produced enough moments to make you not only fall for them again but also yearn for those simpler days.

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