Bluebird - Hot Blood (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Hot Blood (2002)

Dim Mak

The mix of an album can either make it or break it, a fact that any fan of pop music, aficionado or not, will quickly concede. Now, with all the techniques and parlor tricks out in the music world today, it really boils down to a simple decision; toss the gloss and let the musicians talk, or cast a mask that will finish whatever the band left unsaid, in other words, showcase the musicianship or hide it. There has been an interesting trend throughout the years of pop music of producers and mixers putting a "signature sound" on each project which makes many different records by many different bands sound the same. So? What's wrong with that, you ask? Well, a lot of things, actually, for what a producer does with one band is not going to work with another because he/she is dealing with different songs and different musicians, period. I understand that this is done as a nod to one's influences, but enough already, The Neptunes and Brendan O'Brien are in need of some serious sleep, and my ears need a serious break. What's the point of creating something that resembles this or that? It doesn't make any sense. A band needs to stand on its own legs even if it means falling down for at least the band took a chance as something unique and gave the songs an opportunity to live a free-range life. But, if you're Bluebird, you rope those suckers and stamp a label on each one until you've baked an hour's worth of mushy rock and roll. The limp songwriting is certainly to blame, but what truly kills any hope on "Hot Blood" is the mixing courtesy of Joe Baressi and the attempt to make this band sound like…well, everyone.

This LA-based quintet is quite fond of turning up the volume, but they fail to bring any excitement or energy with them. Guitarists Paul Figueroa and Barry Thomas combine a ton of distortion in order to create an indiscernible mess that's appropriate only when their playing overpowers the strained and flat singing of Sam James Velde. Underneath the sludge, brothers Bryan Lee Brown (drums and percussion) and Jim Brown (bass) stick so closely to the rock and roll textbook that their playing fails to provide any much needed direction for the chaos above. Song writing was apparently low on the priority list when "Hot Blood" was still in its conception for there isn't a single melody, guitar hook, or lyric with a single ounce of passion or attitude, moving from one predictable form with whiny vocals to the next for its entire thirteen songs. The only elements of excitement on this record are Wayne Kramer's guest guitar work on "Beautiful Believer" and the tune "Bang the Drum," the solitary rocker of the bunch. Other than the weak vocals of Velde, which are constantly pitch-corrected and heavily affected, the biggest weakness of this recording is the lack of activity in this band. The bass is lost in the mix, but Brown rarely plays anything other than the root of the chord, and the guitars continuously play the same lick, absent is the guitar solo, missing in action is the drum fill, and demanding an hour back is me.

Unfortunately there is promise in this band, even if this offering doesn't provide too many hints, for the end of the record, with the exception of the pretentiously sickening "Lillie May," a tired song of heartbreak, "Bang the Drum", "Lies Disappear", "Slip Inside", "Genius", and "Forms" would be rather dangerous tunes if the mixing were cleaner, the hooks tweaked, and if Velde were traded in for a newer model. However, what's done is done, and this offering from Bluebird is a muddy record that sounds very ordinary and not terribly interesting. But the biggest offender is the mixing, which blurs all the edges and makes the music, well, soupy. But maybe Barresi did what he could and covered as many holes as was possible, or maybe the wall of noise is the desired technique. I think a live recording might be the way to go, but oh wait, Velde probably wouldn't hit the notes, so I guess I'm out of suggestions.