THIS BIKE IS A PIPE BOMB: Convertible: CD

How the world changes around us. When This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb started years back, who’d’ve thunk that an entire subgenre would have sprouted from their seeds by the time this record rolled around? Having seen them quite a few times over the years, and not only owning, but actively listening to, much of their previous work, Convertible is—for better and for worse—what their fans will dig, and what they’ll expect. (The first time I saw them, they opened up for The Causey Way, and if I remember correctly, they were touring in a cab.) Lyrically, TBIAPB is much darker than most may realize. The first four songs are about deaths and elegies, spanning from Willie Junior (a local vagrant whose death remains a mystery) and Andreena Kitt (a neighbor, shot repeatedly and killed by police), to Joe Hill (Wobblie organizer) and Fatty Arbuckle (an entertainer who was blackballed and smeared for life on the unsubstantiated claim that he raped a woman with a bottle). Convertible is like an audio scrapbook: of home, of friends, of shared history, of complicated love, of mental illness and physical sickness. Convertible covers a broad range deftly, from wanderlust so deep that the narrator imagines faking his own death to start up a new, anonymous life. And there is still a deep fire inside this trio; they don’t roll over when gentrification takes out a community church, and sing: “When those saints come marching in, I hope they’re carrying guns.” All of that is great, and genuine, and honest, and I do enjoy this record. But here’s the string in the back of my throat on this record: there’s no outright flashpoint on it—some song on the first several listens that’s careened from the grooves and raised my awareness and appreciation of the entire record. In Front Seat Solidarity, it was the firecracker of a song, “Body Count,” that I couldn’t shake loose. In Three Way Tie for a Fifth, it was the epic, expansive “The Ballad of Sonny Liston” that I couldn’t wait to hear at the end so I could flip the record over and listen to it again. Reviews like this are the most troubling for me. I’ve only listened to this record ten or fifteen times; and there may be that sleeper song in Convertible that watersheds it all together, that snaps the puzzle into place. I have faith that there is… and will continue listening for it.

 –todd (Plan-It-X South, planitxsouth.com)