When I first saw The Front Bottoms, I was stunned to see 350-plus singing, shouting club-goers repeat verse after complicated verse back at singer Brian Sella. Then it happened again at a hot, sweaty club in Philadelphia, and later in D.C., and then again in Baltimore. The community that's formed around these songs — as total strangers purge deep emotions in a public space — is a beautiful phenomenon, a testament to the passion and compassion that this band radiates. It speaks to the nerve that's gets pinged with lines cried out: "I wanna be stronger than your dad was for your mom," or this phrase in one of 2013's best songs, "Twin Sized Mattress":
I wanna contribute to the chaos
I don't wanna watch and then complain
'Cause I am through finding blame
That is the decision that I have made
And when you hear the uncomplicated but memorable music, you realize that the talent in this band isn't about instrumental craft and years of playing scales; it's about the shortest distance in emotion from band to audience. At the Tiny Desk in the bright of day and with office lights on, it was a tough to get the call-and-response effect that happens in a darkened late-night room. But it's not hard to look at The Front Bottoms' faces — especially Sella's sweet smile — and understand this band.
The Front Bottoms' new album, Talon of the Hawk, will be on my year-end Top 10 list for all these reasons. It's all about heart and soul — frequently avoided and hard to convey, but tremendously rewarding coming from a band that gets it right.
- "Au Revoir (Adios)"
- "Swear To God The Devil Made Me Do It"
- "The Feud"
- "Twin Size Mattress"
Producers: Bob Boilen, Denise DeBelius; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Parker Miles Blohm, Denise DeBelius, Erica Yoon; photo by Chloe Coleman/NPR