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 psychiatrists 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 Lets 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 albums most inviting pop song, Your Adorable Beast, sounds subversive, its cheesy trumpets adding a mix of irony and insanity.
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Dont follow me, Im lost, Bare, Jr. declares, fraught with resignation. Listeners are warned. Lee Zimmerman