Buffalo Killers – 3

written by: September 5, 2011
Release Date: August 2, 2011


Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with straight up rock ‘n’ roll. In an age where everything seems to come with an esoteric genre tag—be it indie rock, indie pop, pop rock, indie pop rock, ad infintum—it’s nice when something unpretentious (read: non-douchey) comes along. These days, it’s a rarity that an album comes along that can simply be enjoyed for what it is.

On their third studio album—aptly though annoyingly titled 3—Cincinnati natives Buffalo Killers come close to achieving this most elusive of goals. Over the course of 12 tracks, 3 unfolds at a leisurely and bluesy pace, showcasing the trio’s penchant for sleepy soft rock melodicism and straightforward, down-home lyrics.

While it’s easy to like Buffalo Killers, it’s a bit difficult to sing their praises. While the album is certainly listenable—the kind that sounds most at home on a hot summer day, set to the backdrop of a backyard cookout or suburban block party—the album lacks a replay factor. A one-time listen is enough to catch the gist. While it may be an album that lends itself to the “just put it on and listen” factor, 3 comes with diminished returns.

Unlike their previous efforts, Buffalo Killers have paired down the slick riffs and thunderous rhythms of their previous efforts, this time preferring a more melodic and subtle aesthetic that better suits their playing style. Perhaps it was the influence of The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach—who produced their second LP Let It Ride—that yielded such boisterous hard rock, but the band proves wise in their decision to dial it back.

The end result is an album that boasts a myriad of disparate (albeit familiar) sounds, suggesting Buffalo Killers have a knack for songwriting that surpasses a good number of their peers.

The album kicks off with the gentle “Huma Bird,” a veritable Joe Walsh outtake that bleeds into the next track, “Circle Day,” a decidedly more raucous tune that evokes the likes of Neil Young at his most psychedelic. 3 is littered with similar references, suggesting the Buffalo Killers are just as eager to boast about their favorite music as they are to play their own.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that (pop music is a modern art, after all) but it does get exasperating, particularly in moments that are so on-the-nose as to avoid comparison. “Take Your Place,” for example, owes so much to Buffalo Springfield that “influenced by” instantly becomes less appropriate than “blatantly copied.”

But there are bright spots. “Time Was Shaping,” yet another riff on the Neil Young and Crazy Horse blues sound, is just original-sounding enough to call to mind a dusty dive bar scene, with neon signs advertising Pabst Blue Ribbon and the cracking sounds of billiard balls.

As the albums draws to a close, 3 slows down considerably. The closer “Could Never Be” represents a perfect closer. With its extended outtro boasting a hauntingly somber guitar solo (care of lead singer Andrew Gabbard), the song wraps things up in an efficient yet endearing way. Unfortunately, the sense of finality is too large to overcome. 3 is a nice summer album—too bad the summer’s nearly over.

Buffalo Killers – 3 Tracklist:

  1. “Huma Bird”
  2. “Circle Day”
  3. “Mountain Sally”
  4. “Spend My Last Breath”
  5. “Lily Of The Valley”
  6. “Jon Jacobs”
  7. “All Turn To Cloud”
  8. “Take Your Place”
  9. “Time Was Shaping”
  10. “Move On”
  11. “Everyone Know It But You”
  12. “Could Never Be”