Nonetheless full of catchy riffs and nice melodies, the ultimate problem with The Phoenix Foundation‘s Buffalo is that each song is very strong as a standalone track but let down by its combination with others; it’s like eating the same really good meal 10 times in a row.
To illustrate that, you really could take any of the album’s tracks. “Bitte Bitte”, for example, focuses on the familiar but pleasurable trick of running the same melody across several instruments, the vocal line following them; “Orange & Mango” has a similar feel, with harmonised vocals recalling Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down in the Schoolyard”. “Eventually”, “Buffalo”, and “Golden Ship” are all well worth a listen too: but there’s little to distinguish them, really, besides superficial differences.
Still, “Skeleton” is probably the stand-out. A little more haunting, relying heavily on reverb and almost-not-there minor guitar chords, it cycles through a vocal melody which switches neatly between minor and major, and is a little more developed than a lot of Buffalo’s other songs.
What’s perhaps most disappointing is that The Phoenix Foundation, who aren’t short of critical acclaim, don’t seem to have developed too much; Buffalo is their fourth album, and it came seven years after their debut, 2003’s Horsepower.
Not a bad album by any means, Buffalo simply isn’t a good album: a couple of decent tracks present themselves but it doesn’t feel like a 45-minute investment. Worth listening to in fits and bursts, for sure, but nothing to write home about.