Avi Buffalo, Avi Buffalo
Where's your dirty mind when you need it?
With their wobbly campfire-pop melodies and watery, treble-charged guitars, Avi Buffalo — a Long Beach, California quartet led by 19-year-old Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg (a.k.a. Avi) — can come across as a second-generation Shins. But if we're playing the always-facile game of spot the influences, a closer listen reveals that Avi Buffalo is more directly descended from Galaxie 500, the shambling, Ivy League dorm-room dreamers led by the young Dean Wareham in the late '80s. Avi Buffalo's self-titled debut album is messy and messed-up in all the right places, creating a sort of accidental psychedelia with Avi's warped-vinyl voice (which, at its higher registers, sounds an awful lot like it's being given the Ween sped-up tape treatment) and a king-sized bed of reverb where any of his occasionally off-key singing might comfortably come to rest.
But there's more to this story than a solitary savant-pop boy and his bank of effects pedals. For starters, there's a girl — singer/keyboardist Rebecca Coleman, Avi's former classmate from Long Beach's Millikan High School. Hers is the drowsy, Cat Power-esque drawl that carries opening track "Truth Sets In," and her feminine presence provides a crucial counterbalance to what follows: songs about love and relationships without the sex edited out. It's not exactly Rebecca And Avi Make A Porno, but it's explicit enough, and made plain via the song titles "Five Little Sluts" and "Summer Cum." A healthy dose of carnality — which has very much gone missing from indie rock in the last decade — is on display here, and quite literally so in the Avi-sung lyric "You are tiny and your lips are like little pieces of bacon" from the sunbeamed single "What's In It For?" Hopefully, listeners are not so repressed as to find sex in modern folk-pop liberating, but Avi's casual way with semen-based metaphors is refreshing nonetheless.
All titillating details aside, what makes Avi Buffalo such an impressive debut is its ability to bend into different shapes without breaking the band's basic mold of identity. "One Last" is a country-style duet that retains the album's ever-present shuffle and squeak; the seven-minute "Remember Last Time" is more of a late-album palate-cleanser than foolish proof that Avi Buffalo can muster the same rock-anthem courage as Band Of Horses. The latter song perfectly sets up a closing track that can leave you pondering death or junior high or the inadequacy of sex — take your pick. "Where's your dirty mind when you need it?" sing Avi and Coleman in unison. Here, my dear.