Rhythm & Views

Grant Lee Buffalo

After signing with a major label, Grant Lee Buffalo took home few spoils, despite their startling discography. Indeed, no self-respecting music critic's CD collection lacks Grant Lee Buffalo's four albums.

The L.A. band--which originally comprised singer/guitarist Grant Lee Phillips, bassist Paul Kimble and drummer Joey Peters--was an anachronism, creating literate music that sounded out of place at a time when Beck's Mellow Gold seemed like the start of something fresh instead of the stale bong hit that it was. Listening to the two-disc Storm Hymnal: Gems From the Vault of Grant Lee Buffalo, I'm reminded of how powerful the band's music remains.

The best tracks from GLB's 1993 debut, Fuzzy, still resonate: "Stars N' Stripes," with its grim take on patriotism ("When the Earth is ripe, all the worms wake up / With their stars and stripes and their swastikas"); and "The Shining Hour," with its dizzying historical references, including King Tut's horse and John Wilkes Booth's Civil War sword. Mighty Joe Moon, meanwhile, boasts the Waco-fueled flamethrower, "Lone Star Song," ("And the angels are descending / Like Koresh said they would") and the nihilistic torpor of "Mockingbirds" ("Devastation, at last / Finally we meet"). Copperopolis and Jubilee suffered slightly from Kimble's exit, but even these are as good as anything REM ever did.

Sadly, the rarities disc consists of justifiably unreleased material (the exception being the River Phoenix requiem, "Halloween"). But if you're new to GLB--or a completist--Hymnal simply sings.