Thursday, April 3, 2014
Track of the Week: Buffalo Springfield, "Bluebird"
Every now and then I have a strange experience where an artist whose music I have known for years but never loved suddenly becomes a favorite. This happened to me a few years back with Tom Waits, who I appreciated but didn't embrace until I suddenly had to be listening to him every day, all the time. Something has been happening to me recently on a smaller scale with Buffalo Springfield. I have always really liked "For What It's Worth" and "Mr. Soul," but never rated the rest of their output that highly, preferring to think of them as the early proving ground for Neil Young and Stephen Stills before they went on to bigger and better things.
For some reason I've always associated their music with springtime, and I put on their greatest hits album on my iPod for my walk home from the train station the other day, and since then have listened to practically nothing else. Whatever it is, Buffalo Springfield has totally clicked with, and songs I used to listen to passively are new favorites.
"Bluebird" is one that has really stuck with me, and is a good example of the Springfield's uniqueness. Part of the reason I had a hard time fully embracing them is that they really don't sound like anything else. There are flashes of psychedelia, folk, Americana, and baroque pop, but the band never fully conforms to any of those genres, and is prone to switching gears completely mid-song, especially on "Bluebird." It starts with a searing Stills guitar line that jumps in and out of an absolutely gorgeous curtain of acoustic guitars and trebly singing before slowly breaking down like a pick up truck on side of the highway in need of a dose of forty weight. The acoustic guitar then inexplicably rocks out, and it's a sound that is so rooted in the late 1960s but yet sounds quite like nothing else at the time. "Bluebird" takes another break in the middle, giving way to an old-timey banjo figure that sounds like Bill Monroe by way of Sgt. Pepper, which quietly and beautifully plays the song out. It's a daring move, and one that used to confound me. I have somehow seen the light, because I have listened to this song about ten times today, marveling at both the uniqueness of the sound and the deftness of the changes.
Musical moments like this cheer me, since it's a revival of the feeling of discovery I used to get a lot more in my youth, which is less common these days when it's hard for me to find anything new under the sun to give me the same buzz I got when I first heard "Fight the Power" or Copper Blue. It's just really odd to get that feeling from a 45 year old song, and one I've heard many times over. Strange, but I'll take it.