What happens when five frontmen form a band? Probably disaster. Or, possibly, collaborative beauty. In the case of Birmingham, Alabama’s The Blips, it's the latter.
The group formed after Will Stewart, an accomplished songwriter and guitar player who has released several acclaimed records under his own name and with the Birmingham based group Timber, sent a few curious text messages inviting a group of friends and collaborators to convene and write some tunes together. That group included Taylor Hollingsworth, Wes McDonald, Eric Wallace, and Chris McCauley.
For over 20 years, Hollingsworth has built a dedicated following by composing incomparable rock, blues, punk, and pop music under subtle variations of his name. He also writes and performs with Dead Fingers and Conor Oberst’s Mystic Valley Band (among many other projects and groups). He’s considered by many to be one of the nation’s most innovative and adventurous guitar players.
McDonald, who plays drums in The Blips, has been making records under one moniker or another including Terry Ohms and Vulture Whale since 2000. His studio, Ole’ Elegante, in Birmingham served as ground zero for The Blips as they wrote, practiced, and recorded their first 10 songs with Les Nuby engineering.
McCauley, the leader of seminal Birmingham band Holy Youth, and Wallace, a well-respected guitar ripper who's toured the globe, were already collaborating on a one-and-done punk project called Bad Hops when The Blips formed. Wallace’s deep experience with touring, writing, and playing rock music also influences his day job through which he teaches students of all ages to play guitar. He also owns Birmingham's much celebrated venue, The Firehouse.
McCauley’s sensibilities are informed by bratty punk music and simple, yet melodic, lead guitar riffs. Critics and friends have described his singing voice as "squirrely", a criticism he cherishes.
The Blips answered Stewart’s invitation in the affirmative in late 2019, and, by February 2020, the band had written and recorded ten tracks two weeks prior to the COVID-19 pandemic shut down. Through persistent text messaging and emails, they found a way to mix and master the songs from a distance, resulting in their first full length record.
Their self-titled debut album sounds less like a casual experiment than a band that has been playing together for years. With The Blips sharing lead vocals, guitar, and bass duties, this surprisingly cohesive and high energy album ranges from straight-forward garage rock to hit-and-run rockers to pop ballads with massive lead parts and gang vocals. They’ve even got a song called Wild Thing II.
'Same Do' is another that reminds me of an early punk track from the 70's, with a very repetitive chorus that you can't help but remember.
'Gold Rush' is a more mid tempo Tom Petty style number before our penultimate track 'Patty's Patio', lifts the tempo again for this punk infused number. 'One And Done' draws to a close this self titled debut release with another that is in the indie rock category.
This is a lot more mainstream style indie/pop/punk than I usually listen to, but it really does have an infectious sound and some unique sounding vocals which all come together to create a really interesting and upbeat album. Definitely worth your time to go and check out.
'Inside Out' is a lively and upbeat number to start this release, very much indie/pop in nature before 'Walking Home', which is another that has an indie/pop vibe, with its lively and upbeat feel with some delicious guitar throughout. Very much window down arm out and tapping the steering wheel kinda tune.
'Throw Me Around' has a definite 90's alt rock vibe, again some excellent guitar work complementing the unique sounding vocals, as it has throughout the album so far, and this is followed by 'Out To Sea', which is a much more punk inspired track but again highly infectious with its hit and run style.
'Wild Thing II' is their interpretation of The Troggs classic from 1966. Next up we have 'Yes Yes No Yes Yes No', which is another hit and run track at under 2 minutes in length, but again a highly infectious beat.
TFM gives The Blips self titled album a solid 8/10, really worth checking out for something a little different, infectious and engaging.