The Bobby Lees refresh garage rock for the next generation and everyone else | Music Review | Chicago Reader

The Bobby Lees refresh garage rock for the next generation and everyone else 

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click to enlarge The Bobby Lees

The Bobby Lees

John Swab

Upstart garage punks the Bobby Lees formed after guitarist-vocalist Sam Quartin moved to Woodstock, New York, and took a suggestion from a friend to recruit her new bandmates from the local School of Rock. Now in her mid-20s, Quartin is an established actress who's played alongside the likes of Crispin Glover, Michael Pitt, and Marilyn Manson, but in the Bobby Lees she gives you the idea that she might prefer basement shows to red carpets. On the new album Skin Suit (Alive/Natural Sound), produced by Jon Spencer, the band show they’ve got the chops and the weirdness to refresh vintage rock, punk, and blues (they do a gritty take on Bo Diddley’s “I’m a Man”) without the commercialism that has plagued other prominent garage bands of their generation. Quartin’s unpolished vocals often recall Richard Hell (the record closes with a rousing cover of “Blank Generation”), but the music is memorable enough in its own right to make you want to put highlights such as “Coin” and “Guttermilk” on repeat. The swaggering, minimalist “Ranch Baby” is equally funny and gross, with lead guitarist Nick Casa taking a turn at the mike to ponder a mysterious (and apparently sexy) creamy white substance. On “Last Song,” with its backdrop of sweet, 50s-flavored pop, Quartin delivers a take on “crooning” that sounds like Bobby Darin as a serial killer. Like so many other bands, the Bobby Lees had to cancel their spring tours, but with help from a little word of mouth they’ll surely be playing packed punk shows as soon as social-distancing measures allow.   v

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