New Bums – Voices in a Rented Room


New Bums
Voices in a Rented Room
Drag City

What’s this, I hear you say? An acoustic review on We Must Obey? Preposterous! In actual fact, when I started up We Must Obey I promised a few swerveballs to our usual metal, hardcore, sludge, grind, doom etc. coverage. These have largely been in the vein of pop-punk bands like Bowling For Soup and even video game metal – largely thanks to the brilliant Metroid Metal. I can’t recall ever dedicating time exclusively to an acoustic album – browse through the archives and see if you can find one if you wish – but in any event, I decided to take a punt when the PR machine landed this in my inbox.
New Bums are a duo consisting of Ben Chasny (of Six Organs) and Donovan Quinn (of Skygreen Leopards, Comets on Fire and more). Their alliance was allegedly a grudging one initially, but like Alexandr Zubkov and Alexey Ivanovich Voyevoda, the Russian bobsledding team who won gold despite apparently hating one another and not talking to one another prior to victory, New Bums prove to be an intriguing combination, if not quite worthy of a gold medal like the Russian sliders. ‘Voices in a Rented Room’ is the pair’s debut full-length, culled from five years together, following a career forged in ‘freak folk’ and its aftermath. It proves to be an moderately satisfactory if not wholly essential collection of songs drenched in the haze of folky America, the lonely motel room referred to in the album title every bit evocative in the introductory ‘Black Bough’ a forlorn but catchy track with slightly haunting overtones. They do stand out when there’s a bit of attitude to their sound; the cautionary ‘Pigeon Town’ proclaims that ‘you’ll only get fucked’ there. The single ‘The Killers and Me’ is awesome, a ghostly throwback to dark American country; while ‘Your BS’ is backed by the only percussion on the album, throwing in an electric lead amidst a chunky and satisfying lead riff.

I’m not going to judge on how effective the combination of Chasny and Quinn works when they’re both singing together – I’ve seen other critics pick up on that but when one of the last records you reviewed consisted of gory tech-death metal tunes, such intricacies are slightly lost on me, to be perfectly honest. There’s a few occasions where the sound gets a little distorted, like there’s a bit too much going on, and not every track truly does it for me – the more memorable tracks tend to be the catchier ones, such as the aforementioned tracks, plus ‘It’s The Way’ and ‘Mother’s Favorite Hated Son’. Don’t expect reinvention of the wheel here, but open up to New Bums’ run down motel jams and you might find enjoyment here.

Peter Clegg

New Bums – The Killers and Me (official video)


Buy ‘Voices in a Rented Room’ here


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