Album Review
Pygmy Lush - Bitter River Album Cover

Pygmy Lush - Bitter River

Reviewed by
Pygmy Lush - Bitter River
Record Label: Robotic Empire
Release Date: August 28, 2007
You never really get to see music described as “bipolar” – sometimes an album is too “divided,” like Millencollin’s Kingwood for example; and sometimes an album sounds like the group is “unsure of their musical direction” which can be said perhaps about Thrice’s latest musical excursions. But rarely do I stumble across a band so firmly rooted in their back and forth tendencies to the point where they’ve mastered both sides of their twisted personality and now both live as opposites, fighting for domination on a single disc. Until now.

Bitter River is made up by 45% acoustic folk balladry, 45% obnoxious punk hiss, and 10% atmospheric wind-down (the latter showing up in the form of one 25-minute track). The first listen will sound like just a really good mix CD, stylistically all over the map, but subsequent listens show the band’s craft at splicing together what by all musical rules should not work.

Perhaps the group’s skill at flowing the un-flowable comes from their history in the cult Virginia hardcore monster pg. 99, who had a reputation for varying their style between releases. Indeed PL’s guitarist, drummer, and vocalist all served as major members, and so a leftover residue of punk fury is logically bound to seep over into these players’ mellower new direction. The resultant batch of unique songs comprise this, one of the most criminally overlooked albums of 2007.

There’s a great deal of attention given to the balance between Bitter River’s contrasting faces. “Send Bombs” appears twice on the album, once as a relaxed Radiohead-flavored lullaby, and once as an electric rocker. “Hurt Everything” also gets a makeover, first appearing as a solo-acoustic number and then as a waltz Tom Waits would be proud of. Darker Bright Eyes moments are checked by insane bursts of Blood Brothers.

The disc’s tone is terrific, muffled, and mysterious from cheap production so that there’s more of a live feel to the music without losing the overall sound quality. The vocals are melodically masterful, scratchy and heartfelt on the folk side – kind of like Tapes ‘n Tapes – and when on the angry side, well they’re pretty Tourette’s ridden.

Although this album already ranks in my all time favorites, it’s destined to be a hit or miss release by its alienating nature. Those who like it will love it – it’s definitely the disc that the band meant to create, and you can hear that they know exactly what they want. But those who don’t click with it won’t think twice about it.

Recommended if You LikeTom Waits, Blood Brothers, Radiohead, pg. 99

This review is a user submitted review from OKComputer1016. You can see all of OKComputer1016's submitted reviews here.
Displaying posts 1 - 4 of 4
01:58 PM on 05/09/08
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I haven't picked up the album yet but these guys managed to impress me when I saw them perform live with Wildildlife, Darsombra, Vincent Black Shadow, and Ghastly City Sleep.
09:34 AM on 05/10/08
this is success-this is how we feel
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those are all awesome bands
06:22 PM on 05/13/08
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those are all awesome bands

Yeah, it was by far one of the better shows I've been to in awhile, and one of the most varied I've been to as well.

Was at the Talking Head in Baltimore, a venue that can hold about 200 people max which made everything much more personal.

They'll be back there May 22nd actually, along with The Convocation, Gunna Vahm, and Turboslut. If I happen to be off of work I may go.

Nice review by the way. I may pick this one up so I can review it for my website sometime.

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