Chris got mentioned on Wall of Sound
the other day:
To be released: Bicycle: Bicycle (Capricorn)
Produced in part by former Presidents of the U.S.A.
singer Chris Ballew, Bicycle is the brainchild of
Seattleite Kurt Liebert, who used to play around town
under the moniker Kurt Benetar. Liebert put most of
this debut album together on an eight-track recorder in
his home, playing bass and guitar and programming
the samples himself. Ballew lent his expertise to
"Daisydunes.com," "Clean," "68," "High Plains
and "Electrolux," the latter on which he also sings
review was later posted (with a rating of 80 out of 100)!
Bicycle: Bicycle (Capricorn)
the Presidents and fellow Northwesterners Everclear. And "High Plains Drifter"
sounds like an amphetamined version of "One Night in Bangkok" from the musical Chess.
Being a songwriter named Kurt in
Seattle must be something of a daunting proposition anymore, but singer-guitarist Kurt
Liebert who performs under the nom de band Bicycle seems entirely unfazed as
he slides deftly and, often, prettily through this 14-song debut disc that never even
evokes you-know-who. A more apt comparison is Beck, who Liebert sometimes
shared open-mic nights with a decade ago, while the two were both living in New York City.
Like Beck, Liebert appreciates and pursues a collision of genres, mixing rootsy acoustic
guitar finger-picking with samples and loops, and lacing power pop melodies with vocals
dripping with hip-hop attitude. He also has a taste for whimsy a whole song about
being a "Clean" freak, for instance, and lots of cheeky character which makes former Presidents of the United States
Chris Ballew a fine foil as a producer. The duo, along with helpers such as Liebert's occasional co-writer Forrest
Burtnette, makes Bicycle the kind of album you enjoy on the first lap and
appreciate more with each subsequent listens, as more sonic details pop out of the mix or
as a lyric you might have missed previously reveals itself. In other words, it's dense,
but in a good way.
"68" one of the several songs inspired by a
5,500-mile, cross-country ride-and-play bike trip Liebert and Burtnette made starts
with a mix of Spanish-flavored and jangling guitars before bopping into a Britpop ditty.
"Daisydunes.com" incorporates sampled thunder, harmonica, a dog barking, and
scratching atop an undeniable melody, while "Bionic" which nods to
Liebert and Beck's shared dreams in the Big Apple laces guitar feedback over funky
beats. "Wilderbeast" combines accordion, subtly honking horn sounds and
electronic squiggles, while "Earthquake" closes the album with a snippet of
operatic singing. There are a few moments of catchy, straightforward pop, too, such as
"Electrolux," which mines the same tuneful turf as
Liebert also scores with his wordplay, particularly with
evocative details such as "Plumping dogs on a spit and grill/ Baseball cards on a
windowsill" on "Daisydunes" and some engagingly oddball imagery in the
chorus of "All Her Chords": "Like a samba she moves towards me/ And I've
memorized all of her chords/ In the kitchen the cat is hunting/ Dinosaurs down on the
floor." He baldly admits that he wants to know "exactly how it feels to be
added" to radio playlists in "Pop Song," and the songs here are certainly
clever and well-crafted enough for him to have that opportunity. Gary Graff