The Bobby Lees are one of those band that have spent their existence playing between the lines of different scenes and sound worlds. Unlike many bands that shape shift to mould around current trends, The Bobby Lees have done it by being truly themselves.
Following the release of long-players, Beauty Pageant (2018) and the Jon Spencer produced Skin Suit (2020), with their latest offering Bellevue, it sees the band landing in sphere of Ipecac Recordings.
On the face it’s an odd fit, but the more time spent with Bellevue the more it makes sense. Singer/guitarist Sam Quartin sets The Bobby Lees apart from many others in this space. In fact, after closer examination, her fantastic delivery throughout Bellevue isn’t a world away from Ipecec label-founder Mike Patton, where similar parallels can be drawn with Dead Cross.
Bellevue drips with sweat and grime, street-level vitality. Quartin’s lyrics, unashamedly honest and alongside band mates, Nick Casa (guitar), Kendall Wind (bass) and Macky Bowman (drums), The Bobby Lees present something a lot of others in today’s punk landscape lack: unmitigated spirit. Not only that, but Quartin is unafraid to call out the issues that impinge mass culture. Instead of social media death scrolling and hourly profile updates, The Bobby Leeds demand you let your hair down and actually fucking enjoy life. It’s refreshing to see.
The old tropes are here too, of course. On the opening title track, The Bobby Lees begin with a dose galloping steam punk as Quartin tells a story about lost love; it sets out the stalls for a raw kind of honesty that is the bedrock of Bellevue.
Album highlight, the raucous Holly Junkyard, is a song with rolling grooves, as Quartin puts the circus that is Hollywood to task. And the findings are brutal, underlining the hypocrisy and narcissism of a cesspool crawling with dysfunctional celebrities and empty promises, as she ironically pouts, “Come and find me in the Hollywood junkyard/ I’m gonna be a star.”
While Ma Likes to Drink is a rockabilly punk number tailor-made for classic car shows and tattoo conventions, the high-octane Death Train and Dig Your Hips sees The Bobby Lees re-imagining a back stage dust-up between the The Cramps and The Gun Club.
“I’ve heard he’s looking for wife number three/ Guess what, is it gonna be me?” mocks Quartin on Dig Your Hips. Alongside Have You Seen A Girl, there’s no bullshit as she swings the axe through toxic masculinity.
Meanwhile, the anger continues on Monkey Mind, but it’s a different approach. Dealing with the inner mind and the thresholds we sometimes cross, it provokes the similar kind of themes in which Enablers’ unravelled during their latest LP, Some Gift with the song, Monkey to Man.
Then there’s Strange Days – a song that could have been conceived in an empty outhouse homing a battered piano. A song inspired by the Japanese master, Haruki Murakami, Quartin sings “Strange days/Stanger days ahead”. Indeed.
While In Low flirts with the aesthetic of bubble-gum punk, Quartin’s delivery explodes with a rage and attitude that supersedes any questionable connotations associated in the world of pop-punk. From here The Bobby Lees finish strong.
Firstly with Greta Van Fake. A no-holds-barred assault on the fabrication of modern-day rock music. Most bands would be too frightened to call it how they see it. Not The Bobby Lees.
Then there’s the haunting blues of punk of Be My Enemy, which echoes the best bits of Reigning Sound in a story that takes no prisoners across the social stratum.
Bellevue isn’t an album that will necessarily change the world, but it’s an album everyone needs in their lives at some point. With the kind of gnarl and immediacy The Bobby Lees dispense here, Bellevue is an album that will cross-pollinate between scenes, where everyone from the metal heads and punks to the indie kids will find something that resonates.
The circuit breaker we all need from time to time, the world that The Bobby Lees create with Bellevue is one that welcomes all and sundry.
Bellevue is out Friday via Ipecac Recordings. Purchase from Bandcamp.