About a year ago I was sitting in Prefixmag.com's Cranberry Street office in Brooklyn (Dave Park's apartment) when I first heard the Blam's self-titled debut. Killing time before a concert, Dave sat at his computer, surrounded by layers of CDs and indie-rock magazines, regaling me with newly printed Prefix fliers and music clips. After a long string of laughable songs from an assortment of aspiring acts, he threw me an envelope marked "The Blam" and asked me to open it. "They're from Brooklyn," he said -- a novel idea during a year when it seemed that if you weren't a New York Band you weren't shit. We made it through three tracks and were off to our show. But we were impressed. When we returned, those three songs were still stuck in my head. The lyrics weren't profound, and the music wasn't particularly novel, but something made me want to hear them again.[more:]
Fast forward to 2004. The opportunity arises to review the Blam's second album, Caveat Emptor, and right away I recognize the name from the three clips I listened to over a year ago. Perhaps I'm revealing my own ignorance and destroying my credibility as any sort of competent critic by admitting this -- the band did, after all, spend ten weeks in the CMJ Top 200 -- but I hadn't heard a thing about the Blam outside of that one encounter.
Sure enough, Caveat Emptor lives up to my memory -- catchy but quirky arrangements supplied by Reuben Maher's peculiar but often inspired guitar licks, Yubal Lion's drumming, and Itmar Ziegler's sometimes-wicked bass lines. The album's ten songs oscillate between ethereal psychedelic rock and pop-punk bravado, paradoxically paired with Jerry Adler's delicate, unassuming vocals.
The lyrics yield little surprises. They are simple and often cliche -- "Everybody needs somebody/ 'Cause nights are long," Adler sings on "Everybody." But somehow they don't seem insipid, even in the "The Box is for Me," an exceptionally uncomplicated song with an almost childlike narration: "When the package arrives/ I open my eyes/ Can't believe what I see." The lyrical simplicity allows for some freedom of interpretation, which is often denied by artists with overwrought or, at the other end, flat-out inaccessible lyrics.
You could listen to Caveat Emptor for years, singing along with every word and still not know what half of the songs are about and, frankly, not even care. When it sounds this good, just let it be.
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