He may be the offspring and namesake of a onetime country music icon, but calling Bobby Bare, Jr.’s music country is a severe misnomer. His latest band, the Young Criminals’ Starvation League, abandons all claims to country, Americana or otherwise, save a smattering of steel guitar and his own woeful delivery that even the most despondent cowboy would likely find unnerving.
Fact is, Bare, Jr.’s a bit off-kilter, a displaced, dislodged malcontent whose shredded voice skewers any hint of optimism or stability. From the End of Your Leash is entertaining in a train-wreck sort of way, and he gives the impression that he would rather take his traumas to the recording studio than a psychiatrist’s couch. Broken hearts and cheating women may be a staple of country crooners, but Bare, Jr.’s laments verge on the psychotic. “Hey brother, can I borrow your girlfriend,” he pleads on “Borrow Your Girl.” “Mine busted up my cheating heart in a collision last night.”
The music affirms his maniacal muse. The desperate “Let’s Rock & Roll” sounds like a weak attempt to rally from a hangover after a particularly rowdy Saturday night. “Strange Bird” suggests a nightmare run amuck, an ominous thump that slowly disintegrates into a howl of distorted violins. Even the album’s most inviting pop song, “Your Adorable Beast,” sounds subversive, its cheesy trumpets adding a mix of irony and insanity.
“Don’t follow me, I’m lost,” Bare, Jr. declares, fraught with resignation. Listeners are warned. — Lee Zimmerman
Check out this week's featured ad for Bars & Clubs