Home Read Albums Of The Week: The Blips | The Blips

Albums Of The Week: The Blips | The Blips

Five Alabama veterans pool their talents on a set of raucoust, raw-boned indie rock.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “What happens when five frontmen form a band? Probably disaster. Or, possibly, collaborative beauty. In the case of Birmingham, Alabama’s The Blips, it’s the latter.

The group formed after Will Stewart — an accomplished songwriter and guitar player who has released several acclaimed records under his own name and with the group Timber — sent a few curious text messages inviting a group of friends and collaborators to convene and write some tunes together. That group included: Taylor Hollingsworth, Wes McDonald, Eric Wallace and Chris McCauley.

For over 20 years, Hollingsworth has built a dedicated following by composing incomparable rock, blues, punk, and pop music under subtle variations of his name. He also writes and performs with Dead Fingers and Conor Oberst’s Mystic Valley Band (among many other projects and groups). He’s considered by many to be one of the nation’s most innovative and adventurous guitar players. McDonald, who plays drums in The Blips, has been making records under one moniker or another — including Terry Ohms and Vulture Whale — since 2000. His Birmingham studio Ole’ Elegante  as ground zero for The Blips as they wrote, practiced, and recorded their first 10 songs with Les Nuby engineering.

McCauley, the leader of seminal band Holy Youth, and Wallace, a well-respected guitar ripper who’s toured the globe, were already collaborating on a one-and-done punk project called Bad Hops when The Blips formed. Wallace’s deep experience with touring, writing, and playing rock music also influences his day job, where he teaches students of all ages to play guitar. He also owns Birmingham venue The Firehouse. McCauley’s sensibilities are informed by bratty punk music and simple, yet melodic, lead guitar riffs. Critics and friends have described his singing voice as “squirrely” — a criticism he cherishes.

The Blips answered Stewart’s invitation in the affirmative in late 2019, and, by February 2020, the band had written and recorded 10 tracks — two weeks prior to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. Through persistent text messaging and emails, they found a way to mix and master the songs from a distance, resulting in their first full-length.

Their self-titled debut album sounds less like a casual experiment than a band that has been playing together for years. With The Blips sharing lead vocals, guitar, and bass duties, this surprisingly cohesive and high energy album ranges from straightforward garage-rock to hit-and-run rockers to pop ballads with massive lead parts and gang vocals. They’ve even got a song called Wild Thing II.”