In high school, I had this rule where I could only spend $20 on a concert -which didn’t leave me with many concerts to go to. But the shows that were at my disposal enthralled the closeted-queer-punk kid I was. Every time St. Vincent and The Front Bottoms came to Rochester, I saw them. But since I’ve already ranted about St. Vinny, it’s time I give the spotlight to TFB.
The Front Bottoms sound like something one of my friends in high school would make -even if the songs sound completely foreign to us. What makes this album one of my favorites is the basement feeling it has. The self titled album is the epitome of “just some dudes in a band”. Those dudes are Brian Sella and Matthew Uychich. The album hits a lot of different talking points -and The Front Bottoms do it in their own unique way. I think in order to capture what makes TFB so unique is to discuss the lyrics. So for each song I choose I’ll do my favorite Lines Of The Song (LOTS).
The album starts with the strum of a guitar in the opening track “Flashlight” -a song about being in love with a girl who loves getting fucked up. Brian sing-speaks as he continues to narrate this story. They love her so much, but they can’t seem to help her. It’s this dynamic that makes them sad to be in love with her.
When I am sad, I am sad
And when I’m happy, oh god I’m happy
There’s just no place in between for us to meet
The lyrics are honest -the narrator is stuck in two places emotionally. When it’s great to be in love with her it’s great -but when its bad well…
“Maps” showcases The Front Bottoms’ use of electronic instruments like the keys as they talk about feelings of uncertainty. I didn’t connect with this song when I was younger -I couldn’t relate to it. For most of our youth there is a plan -go to school, do your homework, graduate, go to more school. Now this feeling of uncertainty taunts me as the world throws me through hoops. This song talks about when plans fall through -big, big plans, and the fear that accompanies this.
But you are an artist
And your mind doesn’t work the way you want it to
One day you’ll be washing yourself
With hand soap in a public bathroom
These lyrics are simple but specific at the same time. It’s these types of lyrics that get stuck in my head forever.
“Father” is a cryptic and dark song about an abusive relationship between a father and child. The child wishes they could escape the trauma. It’s one of the more instrumental heavy songs off the album -incorporating a trumpet, the keys, and a cowbell. “Father” is also one of the most heavy songs I’ve ever heard -the opening lines are bruised into my mind as I envision this scene playing out…
I have this dream that I am hitting my dad with a baseball bat
And he is screaming and crying for help
And maybe halfway through it has more to do it with me killing him
Than it ever did protecting myself
“Swimming Pool” is another song about being in love with a girl that wont love him back. In this instance, the singer is so used to the emotional turmoil of relationships failing that he has lost all hope. One of the best things about this song is the voicemail at the end -the tone reiterates the DIY feeling of the album. From the opening lines, this song has a lot of great imagery to explain the emotions the singer goes through.
There’s comfort at the bottom of a swimming pool
I’m holding my breath for you
There’s no doubt in my mind
That if you could then you would try
To crack my ribcage open
And pull my heart right through
The last song I’m going to reference is the penultimate track “Legit Tattoo Gun”. The song is keyboard heavy and filled with metaphoric feelings about their relationship with a girl who has been kissing other people. “Legit Tattoo Gun” battles with the need for physical affection and the insecurities that come with it.
I am the water
In the puddle in the shade of a tree
When I freeze over
You are the sun -you cannot touch me
And the tree feels bad
I can tell by the way that it felt
But it still won’t move
So the ice won’t melt
Again, it’s the imagery within the simplicity that makes the lyrics so close to my heart.
Brian and Matt might be “just some dudes in a band”, but they were about the only people I thought I could connect to in high school. But even in college -and after, I continue to connect with their music in different ways. And even after all of these years, it’s an album that sounds like something a friend of mine made in their basement.