[Ed's Note: This is a serialized blog. Crawford Philleo's original piece can be read here.]
Bill Baird, or his editor, sent me a big package a couple of months ago. I like the record.
There's something about self-deprecation that is so alluring… or maybe that's just what I want to believe, which might be why I myself am such a consistently self-depreciating asshole. No matter how much I think it's impressive to my girlfriend, I know for a fact she doesn't appreciate me talking down about myself all the time. I guess it's relative to whether or not a receiver of art might be attracted to such an artist, one who really generally hates him or herself and everything he or she does, or is perhaps faking it to win over attention. On the one hand, it's a little like solving a puzzle, trying to figure out why the genius who tells you he is specifically not a genius is actually a genius.. On the other hand it's kind of a ridiculous strategy to try and convince everyone that you're not very good at what you do. Ultimately, I think it's pretty much a losing battle.
Thus is the tricky spot Bill Baird finds himself within upon releasing this record Career — an album that came to me packaged with a CD, poster (both nice things!) but also a 33-pg. photocopied, poorly-edited manuscript fronted by a letter from a supposed “editor” basically telling Mr. Baird's audience that he doesn't enjoy his client (Mr. Baird, that is), his client's art, music, none of it, and is just in it for the money (…the $8 a day that comes with doing sort of a crappy job of editing and compiling a short manuscript of scattered thoughts and a damn fine rock album into one mega-package that probably took a long time to assemble and cost quite a penny in postage). And maybe I could be reading the whole thing wrong — the letter suggests that Baird's attempt was to paint a “sort of oblique commentary on modern life and sensible middle-class values,” — themes that do seem to be explored throughout the course of the album using a really interesting brand of rock'n'roll as a medium. But the presentation of the whole thing and ultimately its execution feels slightly desperate for my attention… and as a result I ashamedly ignored it for too long. But don't give up on me or this review yet people.
Here's the deal: This album, Career , is good. It's really good. No matter how much the thematic content of the record plays into the idea that Baird hates what he's doing, the music, even without the unnecessarily lengthy accompanying materials, speaks incredible volumes in its copious fuzziness and exceedingly powerful, electric punctuation. The drums have this keen sense of pounding rhythm and the demonic dual-voice thing, filtered through the blown-out microphone is appropriate in its kinda-creepiness, and the sheer rawness of it all is spine-tingling to say the least. This is heavy, fuzzy fantastic rock and roll, and I love how everything feels like it's constantly on the brink of utter collapse, or broaching unintelligibility through its bombastic static, despite how locked-in the members of the band obviously are. It reminds me of how I feel in my every day life at my own “career” you know? — Frustrated, synical, really ready to give up at just about every single moment of every goddamn day even though I just keep on keeping on with what they pay me to do. Poor typing/editing aside, Baird seems to really get me anyway. And I bet that he gets a lot of people, and I only hope people try to get him too, because even if there isn't a lot to get on a superficial-artist-level, there's still plenty to get out of this album.
This isn't perfect — a couple of the tunes feel a little over-silly and slightly phoned in (take “You're Fat,” for example, which might serve the album's concept, but out of context might even come off as a little offensive… I shouldn't really have to go into too much detail given the title itself). But much of the record is bold and bright and badass, and did I mention it's fuzzy as hell? It's like if Iggy Pop were a member of Guided by Voices and the whole damned thing decided to make a kids record intended to freak out children to the point of making them cry. That was a pretty lazy string of descriptors there, but I hope it works to some degree: there's a filthy nature to the recording that has a puckering effect on the lips whilst the rest of the head can't seem to control itself from banging hard enough to put a hole through the wall directly ahead. The rock is indeed strong with Mr. Baird, the groove, the booming bass and blistering backbeat being the album's most defining and strongest feature. The songs are simple, built around single riffs and buying into them with all the band's got (and the band, I gather from the liner notes, is really just Bill Baird and only Bill Baird) in an insanely deep way, doubling down on the simplicity to let each instrument in the mix have its respective way with them, translating into passionate performances, gnarly guitar solos, etc. Drums (the only instrument not performed by Baird) blast the hell out of “I'm Sad But I Can't Play the Blues,” and the lead guitar wails the hell out of it. And whatever he's saying about social networking culture in “Does Not Compute_…” does not matter because the tune is beating the hell out of that beat so awesomely.
So whether it was Mortimer what's-his-name who mailed me this behemoth of a package or Bill Baird, and whether or not Bill Baird actually hates himself, or I misread the entire album, missed the point by a mile, whatever: I'm not sure I dig the self-disgust thing, although I certainly identify with it. One thing is for sure — Bill Baird is a godsend to Rock & Roll, and this “Career” thing may be indicitave of a bright future in the field of kicking ass.
Oh, and by the way, Mr. Baird… I bet you CAN play the blues.