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Soft Adventure EP/Colts – Tim Bluhm

California Recordings 8801
Throughout the 1990s and into 2002, the Mother Hips surpassed everyone in
recording music with a modern Beatles/Beach Boys slant. Even as newfangled
as the sound has become, the Mother Hips’ recordings remain unique in their
pleasant layering of vocals, introspective metaphors, and esoteric
instrumentation. The sound reached a zenith with 2001’s Green Hills of
Earth, an album selected by Rolling Stone as one of the top ten releases
of 2001.
A harbinger to the sound on Green Hills of Earth was Tim Bluhm’s
obscure 1999 solo debut Land and Sea Chanteys. The release offered
Beatles-styled singalongs ("The Harnessmakers’ Song") and Brian
Wilson-inspired vocals and arrangements ("You Break Mine Too," "Girl
Crazy"). With the disbanding of the Mother Hips in early 2003, it appeared
as though Tim Bluhm’s solo career would chart the same course he began with
the Mother Hips; floating down an antiquated pop jet stream.
But, maybe, during the Mother Hips’ tenure, some of Bluhm’s other influences – Gram Parsons, Skip Spence, Jack London, Robinson Jeffers, John Muir, and
Neil Young – were suppressed. Which might explain why Bluhm’s new solo
release, Soft Adventure EP/Colts sounds so remarkably different from
any of his other work. The music’s quiet introspection and California
country soul lacks his pervious trademark qualities of experimentalism and
lush vocal orchestrations. Bluhm appears ensconced between the Byrds circa
Sweetheart of the Rodeo and the Grateful Dead’s laid-back Merle
Haggardisms, rather than Brian Wilson and the Beatles.
On Soft Adventure EP/Colts, Bluhm sounds depressed, jilted, and
emotionally drained. He sings about "tearing it all down" to start anew, but
without mustering any revolutionary temerity. At other moments he "spies on
your teen" grappling with loving a married woman and the restive desire for
just a glimpse of her figure. Even previous Mother Hips favorites, such as
"Spotless as You" and "Life in the City," have a weary, dust worn sound on
this solo release which saliently contrast with their more rollicking
As haggard as the album sounds, the music comes closer to approximating
Bluhm’s philosophical outlook than his other releases. He sounds closed and
quaint, approximating a journal. All of the sparse melodies and abstruse
lyrics are scribbled entries by Bluhm about his lifestyle, his mid-travel
epiphanies, and his search for simplicity — living, experiencing, to
realize what Jeffers wrote in his poem "Carmel Point," of "This beautiful
place defaced with a crop of suburban houses/How beautiful when we first
beheld it/Unbroken field of poppy and lupine walled with clean cliffs."
True, Soft Adventure EP/Colts won’t likely immediately capture the
listener’s interest. The melodies are not striking, nor overtly riveting.
The hooks are hidden. But, in the end, the album says more in three songs
than Bluhm’s seven previous albums offered combined.

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