The reference points behind Rob Ford Explorer’s name ain’t aging that well. Yes yes, Ford in its capitalist wisdom has released a 2020 Explorer – the large print giveth and the small print taketh away, natch – but former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford died almost four years ago now and has largely faded from the American political consciousness. (I can’t speak, I suppose, for discourse in the band’s home base of Reno, Nev. Fair enough.) Just don’t tell this to guitar wizard/composer Cameron Sax or drummerist Greg Lewis. The duo sounds amazingly engaged and alarmingly in-the-now on the four songs that make up the excellent Buh Bye EP, which was self-released quietly a couple days before XMas and now is available on Bandcamp.
Yep, I had Olympian-sized expectations for Buh Bye, no doubt about that. Rob Ford Explorer’s self-titled 2018 LP was the stuff on which dreams are cut – all rubbery, finger-pulsed guitar lines and angular, light-on-their-feet percussive thrust. The thing was GODDAMN EPIC, Caps Lock intended. That’s a tough act to follow. Buh Bye doesn’t deliver its messages as large as the 2018 offering – aside from the closing final track, there’s less here that’s really grandiose or big-time– but the musical language they’re speaking/translating and the consistency of tone remains just as mesmerizing as it’s ever been.
Opener “Spirit of the Speed Edition” flashes plenty of close-ups of Sax’s hammered-on guitar figures and harmonic flights, arguably the band’s most headline-grabbing feature. And, to be fair to member #2, I particularly did enjoy Lewis’ tightly wound percussion on the opener, which manages to keep things skeleton-structured but, on closer inspection, barely feels like it’s working in the same time signature as Sax. Wondrous, wondrous stuff. The two songs that follow have some truly awesome moments – “Ty’s Baltic Adventure” features a roiling breakdown and an occasional drum fill that could be dubbed math-thrash – but are ultimately just a warm-up for the closing title track.
And what a closer it is. Rob Ford Explorer tear down the curtain in spectacular fashion on Buh Bye, starting with an unadorned and chimy fret-plucking lead-in, then twisting around and knotting up any notion the listener might have remaining of linear thinking. It’s not that Rob Ford Explorer’s times are amazingly intricate or shift at break-neck speeds – with a less imaginative drummer, this would sound like guitar noodling in 4/4. But Sax’s guitar work has a delicious viscosity to it that melts one measure right into the next, a kind of slurred-speech and highly buzzed stream of consciousness. (The running time of the last track is 4:20, fwiw.) The band tosses in, buried pretty low in the mix, a recording of a phone conversation but that’s incidental to the music that streams around it like so many inverted waterfalls. These guys know what the hell they’re doing and are continuing to do it well. Turn your eyes to Nevada, friends: this is another great addition to a great canon, and well worth your hard-earned mullah. – Justin Vellucci, MusicTAP, Jan. 6, 2020