Bob’s Yer Uncle Reviews
This page is devoted to reviews of the band, the band’s music, and the band members. Will there be any negative reviews on this page? HELL NO! (We’re just not expecting any).
Reviews are ordered most recent first.
Here’s a review of the CD, Innocence and Experience from ChicagoGigs.com. The original review can be found at http://www.chicagogigs.com/reviews/bobsyeruncle.htm
Feb 26, 2001
Bob’s Yer Uncle
Innocence and Experience
By Darryl Cater
“Bob’s yer Uncle” is an expression meaning, essentially, “lickety split.” As in, “Quick as you can say Bob’s yer uncle'”–a favorite expression of Dick Van Dyke’s cockney chimney sweep in “Mary Poppins.” Perhaps lead vocalist and lyricist Adrian Matthews knows the expression firsthand from his childhood in Liverpool. In any case, it is a great name for a quirky rock band and if this band ever realizes its members aren’t complementing one another particularly well and decide to break up, one or two of them needs to be sure they keep the name alive.
Bob’s Yer Uncle aspire to the tradition of Smart Pop bands like XTC, REM, the Beautiful South and Squeeze. Matthews seems to have slaved to produce words as witty and intelligent as those kings of clever, and he does in fact come up with some striking images and sparkling wordplay.
Definitely worth reading. But one can sort of taste his sweat–he labors to conform his wordy thoughts to melodies, labors to achieve profundity, labors to avoid clichés while compromising frequently on awkward rhymes (“leads into another world…Into darkness you’ll be hurled”). Meanwhile, his able band is capable of some terrific light pop polish, and while the arrangements are rarely especially inventive there are impressive layers–atop sleek pop bouncy guitars lie strings, organ, jazzy piano).
The odd combination of bouncy pop production, smart pop wordiness and gushingly serious earnestness help make a unique sound from familiar elements. But that over earnestness also gets pretty grating, particularly because of the laborious effort to match melody to wordy deep thoughts. It’s hard not to compare the stuff to XTC’s experimental art poetic pop, in part because a band press release invites the comparison, and in part because Matthews’ strident vocals frequently recall the bouncy bellows of XTC front man Andy Partridge. But Partridge is one of the cleverest of the world’s most clever lyricists; a master of lightly handling the profound with endlessly entertaining mordant wit and catchy melody. Unfortunately, the comparison only points to Bob’s failure to match its unmelodic over earnestness with its bouncy pop approach.
But it is perhaps unfair to hold Bob’s Yer Uncle to the standard of a band as brilliant as XTC. There are some real successes here, some genuine originality. And while Matthews misses some notes and sometimes comes on too strong, he’s impressively adept at many of the album’s most demanding moments (like his acrobatic bounce to the sky-high pitch of the memorable chorus in “Life’s Too Short”–“It shouldn’t be like this!” he enchantingly yelps over perfect drum fill by Mark “Jaxon” Treitman). There are moments when the grinding seriousness give way to welcome frivolity (Matthews occasionally rolls his R’s like Suggs–the cockney front man from Madness–and gets playful on welcome lighthearted lines like those in “Bittersweet,” which smartly jabs at the desensitizing power of pornography).
But there remains some odd, off-putting tension between Matthews’ words and the band’s music. And that makes me wonder whether there might be some basic incompatibility in the artistic sensibilities of some of the band members.
I might be wrong, though. The concoction they’ve stirred together is admirable for its originality if not for its coherence. Maybe with a heightened dose of melody and a diminished dose of drama, the band will have serious staying power. They’ve already made it through five years together in an industry where most groups break up faster than you can say “bob’s yer uncle.”
Here’s the first review of our new CD, Innocence and Experience from www.dailyvault.com.
Review Date: May 5, 1999
INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Bob’s Yer Uncle
Review by: Christopher Thelen
Being in one of the hubs of independent music in America, I’m often asked whether I’ve heard of this local band or that local band. Often, the answer is “no,” simply because there are so many little bar bands sweating it out on the scene that it’s damned near impossible to keep track of who is who, even with the Illinois Entertainer.
And then there are groups that I have heard of, but haven’t had the pleasure of hearing their music. One such band is – well, was, anyway – Bob’s Yer Uncle, a group that has been banging around for some time in this area. With the recent release of their independent album Innocence And Experience, I can add them to the “groups I’ve heard of and heard their music” column… and I have to think it’s a matter of time before someone gives them their big break.
The group – vocalist/guitarist Adrian Matthews, guitarist/vocalist Bill Henshell, bassist/vocalist Dan Flanagan and drummer Mark Treitman – reminds me of a poppier Smashing Pumpkins. The rhythms they create are complex but do have a toe-tapping groove to them, and the vocals hide the darker tone of the lyrics in their simple beauty.
The overall sound of Innocence And Experience is surprisingly excellent; this is something I’ve grown to not expect from an independent release. Opening with the refreshing “School’s Dark Daze,” don’t be surprised if you find yourself going back to this song often. And I can’t think of the last time any songwriter dared to refer to Charlie And The Chocolate Factory in a song (“Bittersweet”) and not make it sound hokey. In fact, the reference seems so natural to the structure of this particular song.
But beyond the poppy sound are some grey clouds, something that will come through on repeated listenings. From coming to terms with one’s self (“How can I make peace with you / when I retreat from myself” – “There Is A Door”) to the melancholic existence of the populace (“We plunge the knife into the womb of innocence / We carve out plots of gloom we call existence” – “Innocence And Experience”), Bob’s Yer Uncle dares to try and be a thinking person’s band. Such images might frighten some listeners away, but I think it actually adds to the musical texture that the band strives to create.
The only “negative” is that it sometimes is hard to stay focused on the music; if you’re listening to it and trying to do something else, chances are Bob’s Yer Uncle will just become background music, albeit enjoyable background music. Innocence And Experience needs a little additional spice in order to keep the listener hooked from note one to the final fade; that’s something that will only come with time.
In fact, I would question if seeing the band live would breathe some life into those songs. (Side note: I had the chance to see them recently, but had to pass so I could play “Mr. Mom”… not that I’m complaining about that.) I’m willing to bet that Bob’s Yer Uncle would blow even the songs I really liked away with their live show.
Innocence And Experience is an album from a group that is just about ready to make the step up from independent band to something big. All they need now – besides a little more work – is a chance. Here’s hoping someone will give them the opportunity to prove themselves on a grander scale.
For more information about Bob’s Yer Uncle, please visit their Web page.
© 1999 Christopher Thelen. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Bob’s Yer Uncle, and is used for reference purposes only.
This review is of our demo tape by P.J. Baio from the August ’96 issue of Showcase Music Magazine. The tape contained the three soon to be immortal songs Best Shoes, Truly Madly Deeply, and The Cage.
Bob’s Yer Uncle is a local Chicago band that includes a couple members of Big Blonde Wig and Eden Deluxe. BYU gives us three incredible tunes that are hook-ridden and memorable. Describing their music as adult alternative rock — calculated aesthetic pop rock would probably be a better description. Not only is their music catchy, the mixes are definitely a treat for the ears.