With the Breaking Bad finale reintroducing a new generation to Badfinger this week, it seems timely to spotlight a contemporary torchbearer for the kind of gorgeously crafted, giddily passionate pop-rock that Pete Ham, Tom Evans, Joey Molland and the lads proffered. Oakland’s The Bye Bye Blackbirds are pro practitioners of finger-snap ditties with a classic rock ‘n’ roll rumble with ringing kinship to Cheap Trick, The Velvet Crush, Village Green-era Kinks, Buffalo Springfield, and early Nick Lowe.
The band’s forthcoming new long-player, We Need The Rain (arriving November 12 – listen and pre-order here) is a concisely carved treat that reminds us how far radio fare has fallen in recent decades and what a swaying treat it once was. Every tune practically shimmies out of the speakers, cool small details etched into ceaselessly ear-snagging melodies as sweet, gently yearning voices sing about love and the weather in ways that make both seem brand new. See, that’s what really good pop-minded music has always done, make the world sparkle in a fresh way through the minor miracle of relatable, smartly built songs. Every time the Impound puts this on we flash back to a time when folks spun 45s in their bedrooms and danced with mad joy because of the new sounds flooding the air around them.
While many mining the past for their sound would settle for homage and imitation, The Bye Bye Blackbirds, anchored by chief songwriter-singer-guitarist Bradley Skaught, inject a bit of rattle and tempered noise that cements this as modern stuff, always walking that fine line between admirers of greats and aspirants to greatness, making them contemporaries to quality rockers like Kelly Stoltz, Dr. Dog and The Dirtbombs – i.e. circumventers of clichés that also grok the master strokes of classic pop. The growling, expansive spirit of Crazy Horse emerges in fab closer “Spin Your Stars,” and the Blackbirds show a pleasing willingness to muddy their guitar sound in general. Taken together, We Need The Rain is the sort of record that’s readily welcoming but built to last, where one gets a little something neat out of every spin, the richness and pleasure of the album steadily increasing as its words, tunes and performances slowly settle into the listener’s bones.
We invited Bradley to tackle DI’s quasi-philosophical round table, and here’s what he had to say.
Name: Bradley Skaught
Band(s): The Bye Bye Blackbirds
Nicknames: Never had one. Wait, do insults count?
What’s the first thing that springs to mind when you see the word “God”?
I honestly don’t have any associative response – out of context it doesn’t really call up any images or thoughts. I’ve never had luck with the associative language thing – either my mind goes blank or it’s so instantly inundated with potential connections that it’s useless. I once drove a school counselor to tears when she was trying it out on me.
Which has the better cosmology, Star Wars or Star Trek? Why?
Does either really have anything like a realized cosmology? Star Wars has “The Force”, but that’s about as far as it goes. They’re both kind of flimsy. I dunno – Dune probably has something more like a cosmology than either, but I don’t know if I’d hang my hat on that, either. I’m gonna say Harry Potter because it’s magic, right?
Name one album that has spiritual resonance for you.
In my early adolescence I was on a desperate mission to hear as much music as I could get my hands on. I was really obsessed with the idea that being in love with rock ’n’ roll meant educating myself about every form of music that contributed to the form – country, folk, blues, etc. I would go to the public library and dig through their collection of tapes, records and CDs. One day I came across a CD called I Hear Music In The Air: A Treasury of Gospel Music. It was part of this RCA Heritage Series of roots music and it’s mostly from the 20s-40s. It kicks off with Rev. J.M. Gates so it’s really not pulling punches. I made a tape of it and must have listened to it thousands of times.
Woody Allen once said, “I don’t know the question but sex is definitely the answer.” So, what’s the question?
You can have a dinner party with any three people throughout human history. Who do you invite, what’s on the menu and what intoxicant do you share for dessert?
Oh man, how do people answer these kinds of questions? There are a million different ways, I’m sure, but I’m going to invite my wife, my grandmother and somebody else! Frank O’Hara? Walt Kelly? Christy Matthewson? Doesn’t really matter. We’ll have salmon because that’s the only thing I’m really good at making. And we’ll drink an Edelzwicker from the Anderson Valley.