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Published: 2006/09/19
by Joe Doherty

Incredible Consequences – Bump


What if the oft applauded and, in many circles, equally detested rock scribe Lester Bangs had lived past the 1980s? He would have witnessed his grim prophecy of rock and roll fulfilled. Bangs, in his last interview before his untimely death, diagramed his own rock analogue for future Chicago Sun-Times music critic Jim DeRogatis: “It's something that's human, and I think that most music today isn't,” he said. “And it's like anything that I would want to listen to is made by human beings instead of computers and machines.”

Indeed, once grossly appealing, hook-heavy rock bands (Blind Melon anyone?) slowly gave way in popularity to the steady overflow of digitized, radio-ready pop in the years preceding the turn of the millennium. A noticeable change of scenery has developed in jambands’ small corner of the music world, too. Many groups still aim to weave different colors into Phish’s heirloom. But the scene has rapidly branched off into the abundantly unexplored territory of performed, electronic music even taking on the pet name “livetronica.”

Detroit quartet Bump’s debut studio album, Incredible Consequences, just may have been the disc that would have made Bangs reassess his outlook. Yes, Consequences’ core instrumental arrangements smoothly layered synth bedrocks, hi-hat fueled drum machine grooves and scattered Eastern rhythms maybe akin to a New Deal or Lotus record. But there is something undeniably human here — mainly in the songwriting. Sure, lyrical misfires undoubtedly occur; times when Bump over-conceptualizes with intensely-read, cheeseball prose (“Oblique”): “Somewherein the obliquewe strugglefor our truth.” And so on. Other times, lead vocalist Chris Sterr meditates thoughtful love song passages (“Just in case, you’re afraid of exposing your fears/ I will soak up the pain as you hide inside me”) fixed above a rippling synthesizer on “The More I See.”

When Bump probes the unpredictable, it teeters on the sublime. Sterr contributes breezy guitar chords aplenty on the danceable track, “Last Chance,” adding island rhythm to the group’s already diverse musical palette.
Of course, no one will ever know what Lester Bangs would have thought of this strain of today’s jambands. He did reveal that, at least to him, rock and roll makes you feel alive. In his defense, that seems pretty spot on. Then again, he’s the guy that called Anthem of the Sun “shit” and lionized Iggy Pop.

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