The Bumpin Uglies have been busy. With the successful release of their last full-length album Beast From The East just last year, their never-ending tour schedule, and having just rocked the main stage at Reggae Rise Up Florida less than a week prior, the momentum continues with a new EP that dropped on March 22nd via Ineffable Music Group. Donning the title Buzz, this six-track EP is one that is rightfully generating quite a buzz. Small but mighty, this release packs in a myriad of different styles and genres, showcasing this band’s broad talents and influences while maintaining their unique “Bumpin Uglies” sound.
Buzz kicks off with light mood, both musically and lyrically,with “Locust Avenue.” This track takes you down a memory lane to more carefree days of drinking and other…let’s call them extracurricular activities. Transporting many listeners back to relatable days in their youth, this song highlights keyboard from the get-go, setting a laid-back vibe. Unexpectedly, “Locust Avenue” transitions to exude a heavy ska/punk influence right in-step with how the narrative of this song develops, showcasing their versatility as musicians.
Bringing it back down from the high-energy finish of “Locust Avenue,” “Island Time” continues with a similar blithe spirit, but it evolves from the youthful vibe captured in Brandon Hardesty’s (lead vocals, guitar) storytelling of the proceeding song. This is likely the most easy-listening reggae out of the band’s entire discography. Based off of an island off the coast of Maine, “Island Time” is guaranteed to transport you to your own island, whether it’s one from your memory or your imagination.
Taking yet another stylistic shift, the title track for the EP “Buzz” is next. With a similar structure and thematic to one of their earlier tunes, Hard Liquor, this track risked comingoff as a “Hard Liquor Pt. II.” However, “Buzz” deviates from the sound of everything Bumpin Uglies had previously released. A little funk, a little hip-hop, this track tips its hat to the band’s Mid-Atlantic roots. Go-go– a sub-genre of funk that originated in Washington D.C.– is a clear influence, and TJ Haslett (drums) holds down that go-go beat throughout. Despite being all about “catching a buzz” with a lack of lyrical depth, this song features intelligent word play from all vocalists, which includes Chad Wright (keys, guitar, vocals), as well as Matthew Roads and James Begin from Tropidelic. Each vocalist brings a distinctive style, making this song a delight. Listen carefully and you may notice a story progress throughout the EP, with alcohol serving as a central motif.
Throughout Buzz, Bumpin Uglies incorporates horns smartly and seamlessly. “Serving” is no exception. A new take on an old song, “Waiting” has been a fan favorite inits acoustic form. However, many fans likely couldn’t image how it could have gotten better until they hear this reincarnation. The bassline, courtesy of David Wolf (bass, back-up vocals) brings this song to the next level. “I’m settling for having my bills paid/a cigarette after a long day.” Centered on an element of discontentment and vying for something more, the lighthearted and party-focused theme of the earlier tracks have dissipated, perhaps paralleling the journey through life itself.
Next, the instrumental build at the beginning of “Self-loathing” immediately seizes a listener’s attention, priming you to be hooked on every lyric from the first wordBrandon utters. Building towards an instrumental break in the latter part of this track, the musicality of all members of Bumpin Uglies is well highlighted. Written in a minor key, the dark and ominous tone of “Self-loathing” transcends both lyrics and instrumentation, in sharp contrast with where we started just over 17 minutes prior. Raw and honest, this hits on a level of self-awareness that people are inherently afraid to confront. These sentiments are sure to resonate deeply within a lot of people, as many have partaken in their own journey from more carefree days through a phase of self-questioning and uncertainty.
Similar to the curveball thrown at the end of Beast From The East with “Optimism in F#,” Buzz also ends with a beautiful deviation from the expected with “This is Ours.” Utilizing a string quartet for the first time, this song seamlessly blends the strings with piano and the full band, including synthesized keys. Referencing his youth early on in the song, the story appears to progress passed phases of baseless partying and internal struggles to arrive upon recognition of what happiness really is; an optimistic and touching finale to the EP. For the hopeless romantics out there, this song will likely make you (figuratively) melt.
Every new release from Bumpin Uglies demonstrates the bands’ growing talents and maturity as musicians. Buzz exemplifies this development of the group, especially with this being the first time Chad Wright lends his talents to the full process. As Brandon shared in their fan group, Uglies Nation, during the recording process, “As a songwriter I like doing a little bit of everything. My philosophy is that if it sounds dope and we have the tools in the shed, give it a shot.” With half of this EP manifesting the band’s typical reggae rock sound that fans have come to know and love, while the other half experiments with new styles and sounds, I would say the risks of venturing outside their expected norm will reap the awards.
Buzz is available everywhere you can stream or buy music. Click here to listen to the full EP on Spotify.
Hear the full album live and celebrate with the BumpinUglies at the Buzz CD release show on May 10th at Union Stage in Washington DC.