Big Bloom’s vicious volley of cathartic bloodletting, stage thumping energy, and well-organized carnage has been branding San Diego with mesmerizing and authoritative performances as of late – a few months ago we basically lost our minds when seeing them live. Here, the band – Katie Howard, Alex Packard, Sean Daly, and Grant Gilbert – deliver a seismic blow with their debut LP, ‘Heavy Angel’. The record’s cover – a product of Ariana Carrion’s photography and Dane Danner’s design prowess – is completely emblematic of Big Bloom’s visceral, unhinged, and carbonated approach to both life and music. This is a staggeringly urgent record that brick layers confidence, fearlessness, mercurial visuals, and barbed affection. When we interviewed Katie recently, she expressed her excitement over Big Bloom’s re-imagined aesthetic: “I had been more inspired to be that harder, more raw female voice,” she told us. The results, as heard on the band’s LP, are brilliantly realized.
“Step Up To My Face”, the opening track on ‘Heavy Angel’, is an unrestrained introduction. Littered with a swirling, kaleidoscopic mural of heavy guitars and mortar fire drums, Big Bloom charges into the fray without a helmet on. It’s this sort of menacing abandon, unabridged confidence, and fatigue-free energy that get the chariot wheels rolling on the band’s album. With this opening salvo, the ensemble eschews a sense of mortality, and creates a landscape of instrument bruising sincerity. Meanwhile, the staccato ebb of “Country Boy” leans in with the confidence of a Jean Seberg grin. Howard paints the canvas with gasoline: her glib delivery banks off the boards like a loose puck, giving way to a chase of melodic drums. This is a great composition, where the entire band brings a shade of their personality to the proceedings.
“Venus” is where Big Bloom alters their sound, somewhat, and reaches for some grim beach vibes. Imagine the hurricane guitar playing of Duane Eddy, only a little more sticky. The sea salt crescendos kill. You can tell that Howard is having fun with this one, and her roaring vocals crash and hum with a sort of pacific, nonchalant self-assurance. I’m stoked to see this one live. “Punk Song” is ruthlessly good, as everyone knows, and “Heavy Angel” sounds like it’s ready to be used in a David O. Russell film (Jennifer Lawrence is already warming up to this song, I bet).
But my favorite cut on the record is “Slow Ride”. The warm, aching melody moves across a blanket of distortion. Howard’s vocals are full of restrained pain and power – it’s confessional, reflective, and unafraid. Imagine The Sundays as curated by Radio Dept. These emotions creep closely, and get all too real.
“If You Were Cool” ends the album like it began: plumes of smoke, wreckage, and Katie Howard on a warpath. The all knowing lilt that she spins on the chorus gets me every time. This is an artist that knows how to punctuate lines and convey the power of words: you can feel every emotional tailspin, every aloof transgression, every confident burst of stamina. This is a skill set that not many artists possess in their bookbag.
Ultimately, Big Bloom’s debut is an exciting record that fulfills the promises of their live shows. And gives us some pretty sweet carnage and fun (not to mention one of the best songs of the year). Cant argue with that, dudes.