New York punk rock outfit The Bobby Lees release their jarring new album and Ipecac Recordings debut, Bellevue, on October 7. Composed of Sam Quartin (vocals, guitar), Macky Bowman (drums), Nicholas Casa (guitar), and Kendall Wind (bass), the band was formed by Sam, Kendall, and Macky when the three met via the Rock Academy in Saugerties, N.Y. in 2017. Their DIY, self-released album Beauty Pageant arrived in 2018, catching the attention of garage rock impresario Jon Spencer, who went on to produce the band’s 2020 album, Skin Suit. On their latest effort, the group, primed for all their time on the road and more energized than ever, decamped to Sputnik Sound in Nashville to record Bellevue live in the studio with producer Vance Powell (Jack White, Chris Stapleton, The Raconteurs).
The Bobby Lees are your favorite punk rockers new favorite punk rockers. After receiving praise from icons such as Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, and Henry Rollins, the four-piece unit are making a loud, blistering entrance from the underground rock world. They excel in making music that is pure punk in spirit and soul, unfettered and brutally honest. Their unfiltered sound is something that struck a chord with Rollins, who brought them to Ipecac Recordings where they were signed. Channeling the phenomenon of an aural exorcism, their raucous, gritty sound thrusts them into the forefront of both industry goers and rock fans alike.
On Bellevue, lead singer and songwriter Sam Quartin, (who also moonlights as an accomplished actress,) writes of her own experience with mental health. Living near Bellevue Mental Hospital in New York prior to moving to Woodstock, Quartin states, “When I was living there, I was drinking a lot and my mental health got pretty out of control. I was hallucinating without taking any drugs, feeling like I was possessed, and hearing things that weren’t ‘there.’ I sometimes thought I was communicating telepathically with the people in Bellevue, maybe I was…”. What results is a feverish, scalding hot record that simmers with emotion and borderlines on trippy hysteria, released in perfect time for October haunts. As nihilistic as the music can at times seem, there’s always a glimmer of hope at its core. “It’s a reminder for me that the most painful and intense things I go through end up being the most rewarding creatively.”
Quartin’s vocals are as effortless as they are penetrating. Her unabashed delivery adds a crackle to each track, like a fist in the mirror of its façade. Her conviction is equally eerie and instigating; at times her attitude drives songs into a frenzy (“Death Train”), while on others we’re treated to a more tender, stylistic approach (“Strange Days”). The former is an effervescent jazzy number that could be slotted into any movie, perhaps one Quartin herself would star in. The band also turns towards a theatrical edge on the single “Hollywood Junkyard,” an ode to the dead and the part of you that dies in order to “be a star”.
The Bobby Lees’ vigor is encapsulated through grimey garage rock, which gives tracks “Ma Likes to Drink” and “Monkey Mind” a startling edge. “Dig Your Hips” is a deliciously sleazy, garage rock banger with an ultra-catchy bassline and cheeky lyrics like “I heard he’s lookin’ for wife number three/ Guess what? It’s gonna be me”. In spastic motions, the track’s music video finds the band honoring their DIY roots: the band appear in dingy work uniforms while they play in a basement full of vacuums and amps that are propped up on microwave ovens.
The album draws towards its close with an attention seeking diss track aimed at the ever controversial Greta Van Fleet, aptly titled, “Greta Van Fake”. On an album with rather ambiguous titles that are vague in nature, this is a direct-hitting slap, emphasized with fake gagging noises and all. Lyrics “You think you’re Robert Plant/ But you’re a joke you’re a wannabe baby/ I watch ya from the crowd as you fake it” finger points at lead singer Josh Kiszka. While the track’s redundant lyrical content may seem oh-so-2018, it doesn’t take away from the angsty sound this band has honed. Though it’s a bit late in the game to unprovokedly criticize their peers in the name of “authentic punk rock”, the track does draw eyes, ears, and clicks. Quartin’s intentions for the track, even though stated as a “joke,” may earn the band the buzz they’re looking for simply from their guts. At least they got it out of their system.
The 13 track LP concludes with a moody instrumental, “Mystery Theme Song” that sonically ties the album together in a sludgy, Halloween-esque jam. Similar to the ending credits in a spy thriller, the song wraps up the story of Bellevue with the dwindling suspicion there’s more where it came from. The album is a weird and exciting headrush, overrun with in-your-face guitar work, explosive percussion, and enticing vocals that spit out personal tales and harsh truths alike. Bellevue is out everywhere October 7 via Ipecac Recordings.