Ben Chasny and Donovan Quinn, doing business as New Bums, are the sound of Bob Dylan and Neil Young raised as brothers on the mean streets of New York, singing dark songs of contemporary survival and busking for change with a cardboard sign that reads “Paul Westerberg Relief Fund,” although they’re spending the money on 40s and weed.
The duo has fairly impressive individual curriculum vitaes; Chasny has earned a fervent following and an enviable pile of critical acclaim for his work as the creative sparkplug of Six Organs of Admittance and as a member of Rangda, while Quinn has managed similar accomplishments and glories with the Skygreen Leopards, his Psych/Folk aggregation, and on his own as Donovan Quinn & the 13th Month.
By Chasny’s accounts, he and Quinn plotted their New Bums collaboration for nearly five years, beginning when the two were San Francisco neighbors.
Their basement labors came to fruition last year with the release of Slim Volume, a four-song 7-inch featuring a cover of Nikki Sudden’s “The Road of Broken Dreams.” New Bums’ vision is more fully realized on their debut album, Voices in a Rented Room, a perfect pastiche of its creators’ most potent gifts. At turns sounding like acoustic T. Rex and Stooges demos and a smartass Punk band’s unplugged front porch jams, New Bums greatest assets are their tremulous harmonies and the ability to make serious music without the slightest hint of Folk’s earnest self-importance.
Chasny has made no secret of his love for Quinn’s wordsmithery, and if the latter is the primary architect of New Bums’ lyrical imagery, the former’s point is well taken. Take “Pigeon Town,” for instance; the song starts out with a lilting acoustic intro that wouldn’t sound out of place on Cat Stevens’ Teaser and the Firecat, but the first verse to accompany it is, “You just get fucked in Pigeon Town/My girl Cilia was coming around/Called from the station, her bus broke down/You only get fucked in Pigeon Town.”
New Bums is brilliant Psych/Folk, emphasis on the Psych — as a genre and as slang for a mind game.
NEW BUMS play a free show at MOTR Pub Thursday with guest Pete Fosco. More info here.