Buffalo Tom's Let Me Come Over Celebrates 25th Anniversary

The musicians and music that you love. Mostly it's all about timing. Whether it reminds you of a happy(ier) time in life or a much-younger, more-energetic version of yourself, certain music can inspire a devotion that does not easily die.

It was with this kind of expectation that I joyfully approached the 25th anniversary LP re-release of Buffalo Tom's Let Me Come Over. My story with them is simple: they were a baby band (which is a term I now realize has become part of music history) and I was, well, a baby music writer. After seeing them more times than is healthy, we were forever joined and so when I heard their best record was going to have its first domestic LP release, with a bonus second record containing a previously unreleased live show, I could feel a familiar bounce returning to my step.

Begun by three friends at UMass at Amherst in 1986—a university scene that also spawned the Pixies and Dinosaur Jr.—Buffalo Tom, a trio of singer/guitarist Bill Janovitz, bassist Chris Colbourn, and drummer Tom Maginnis, have been laboring in semi-obscurity ever since. Their first two records were produced by J. Mascis and were most often heard on college radio during the late '80s. After a move to Boston where they've been based ever since, the band signed with RCA and released a string of riffy, energetic, loud-soft, guitar-rock records that got tighter and more tuneful each time out and peaked with Let Me Come Over (1992), and Big Red Letter Day (1993). Though these albums nurtured a fanatical fan base and made modest entries onto the Billboard charts, they failed to break the band to a larger audience. Their widest fame has probably been via the TV series My So-Called Life, in which they made an appearance, and had their song "Sodajerk" featured on the show's official soundtrack release.

The band reached a breaking point in the mid-1990s. A hiatus followed and they all took day jobs for a time as their musical careers went dormant. This all too common music biz tale was a bitter pill for the band and its fans, neither of whom could quite understand why they hadn't "made it" whatever that really means.

Silent for almost a decade, the trio regrouped, rehearsed and released a superb return to form Three Easy Pieces in 2007. A full tour, catnip for the band's army of now . . . ahem! . . . middle-aged fans, soon followed. Their most recent, Skins, came out in 2011 but is not one of their stronger efforts.

Previously available in LP form only in Europe via Beggars Banquet (Germany, Italy), Situation Two (UK), Victoria (Spain), and Music on Vinyl (Netherlands), Let Me Come Over, which contains a pair of classic Buff Tom tunes, Taillights Fade and Mineral, has finally been released on vinyl in the US 25 years after being released, which says something about the band's hard-luck career. While it may be the "everything sounds better on vinyl" wishful thinking talking, the sonics of the new LP pressing are warm and wonderful. The original album was well-produced and recorded (for an early '90s digital rock record) at Fort Apache Studios in Boston by the band and Paul Q. Kolderie, the well-known record producer who's been behind a number of very successful and critically acclaimed records like Uncle Tupelo's Still Feel Gone, Morphine's Cure for Pain, and Radiohead's Pablo Honey.

The most exciting thing about the 25th-anniversary edition of Let Me Come Over was that instead of outtakes, alternate takes, or unreleased songs from the album—all of which would have been worth hearing as well—a second record was included, containing an unreleased live show, Live From London ULU 1992. Legal bootlegs, a new trend in the value-added record business these days, are usually revealing and this one, recorded in 1992 at the University of London Union on multi-track tape, seemed particularly promising.

To be honest, I have amassed more than a few Buff Tom bootlegs over the years, most from when they were actively touring in the late '80s/early '90s. Like all bootlegs, some from the more desirable soundboard tapes, others from the usually dodgy-sounding audience recordings, the big mystery is how much information is lost when the tape is cleaned up for release. My first LP copy sounded more muffled than the MP3 download I had heard via an email from the band's label, Beggars Banquet. It had some of that telltale round sound all bad audience tapes have and yet this was, according to the record label, "properly recorded," and was mixed by the band in Boston and mastered for LP at Abbey Road Studios.

I immediately contacted Beggars Banquet to see if they'd had other complaints. According to old pro and longtime friend, the excellent Sonya Kolowrat, VP of Communications and Press, she and several staffers in the NY office immediately decided to listen for themselves. They opened an LP copy, played it on several different turntables and did not detect much difference from the sound of the MP3 download. They sent that same copy over to my office and sure enough it did sound better than my other LP copy, much like the MP3, which while thin and flat, was at least clear and relatively clean-sounding. A pressing defect? A sonic oddity between two records on the same system? My brain finally gone permanently haywire? The LPs were pressed in the UK and Kolowrat was going to check with the production folks in the UK office of Beggars Banquet to see if they've had any other complaints. Meanwhile, the London show—which again is taken from 25 year-old multi-tracks—is an artifact all Buff Tom fans will want for their collections. For a moment or two, at least for this devoted fan, it was indeed 1992 all over again.

Check below for a sample of the band playing "Mineral," in May 2017 at New York's Bowery Ballroom, during the tour to support this long overdue reissue.

COMMENTS
halloweenjack's picture

Pretty much a masterpiece. Janovitz also wrote a must-have book on the Stones: "Rocks Off: 50 Tracks That Tell the Story of the Rolling Stones." First time I saw BT was at a keg party, where their set consisted of playing the entire Some Girls album. (E.g., BT's "Taillights Fade," Keith's "Watch my taillights fade..." line in "Before They Make Me Run.") Those cats are the real deal.