Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered and mastered by Matt Oliver
One of the things that I admired most about Avi Zahner-Isenberg the many years ago, when we first taped he and his band, Avi Buffalo, in Van Nuys, California, at Elliott Smith's old studio - when they were all still in high school - was the precociousness of the whole thing. It's still what bleeds through the headphones when listening to him now. He's a few years older, at least, but he's always sounded older than he is. There's something about the way that he carries himself and the way that he plays his guitar, the words that come out of his mouth and all of it that just make you shake your head in utter disbelief. He bowls you over and his band is at the same level that he's at now, putting together a sound that's blistering and bold. It's different than anything else happening right now. It's weird and never refrained. It just smokes you. It loves you in those creepy ways that you never knew you wanted to be loved in. I feel confident in believing that Neil Young has been on some strange trips in his life, but the new songs that Avi Buffalo have put together - heard here for the first time - are demonstrations of the strangest of trips that Mr. Young could have ever had. He seems to be the narrator of these songs, while Frank Zappa or a like-minded soul is the conductor, or navigator.
Zahner-Isenberg's high-pitched vocal delivery puts most of his songs in some part of outer space. On "Time To Sleep (The Long Way)," a gentle tale about what seems to be the end of all ends. It's a man who's looking to lay down and shut his eyes for good. He's just looking to feel okay, whistling his way to his deathbed, neither saddened by it nor all that excited about it, but feeling the way you do when you're fixing a good plate of spaghetti, feeling your belly ring with hunger as you're shaking the Parmesan cheese on the top. It's going to be a load off, just letting it all go dark, in this case, or in getting that pasta devoured. When on the other side, the man waits a long time for his love to join him and she never does. He admits that he understands her reluctance to take death in herself. She didn't want it like he wanted it so he'll go along waiting some more. "Won't Be Around" is another song filled with foreboding and heavy clouds. It's deals with going away as well, and it's one that gets freakier. Buffalo sings, "And I won't be around no more," though there are the fragments of kisses in morning sunlight still making the whole thing snuggly. When Zahner-Isenberg sings later, about "watching all the happy people pass by," it's with the kind of longing that makes you go crazy sometimes.
Avi Buffalo Official Site
Sub Pop Records