|Photo by Debra DiPaolo|
The reformed suburban-stoner Sammy Hagar fan from Huntington Beach, who once said he dreamt of being a spiritual link between Darby Crash and Top Jimmy, is back for the first time since the undervalued Beautiful Mess (Capitol, 1992). Bob is heard on this new live-in-the-studio set of semi-acoustic folkish pop rock with good old-fashioned five-stringed guitars strumming away and at least three or four great tunes mastered loud and hot in a first-rate Pro-Tools-in-the-bedroom production by Marc Hunter and Josh Blum. Lyrically, as always, everything's utterly personal in Bobsville: It's his bloodied bed of regret, he says, but at the end of the day, the dear chap wants you to know he's still trying, trying, trying.
And so Bob's back to work courtesy of Goldenvoice Recordings, with a revised post-corporate indie philosophy: If you carve out a small brand-name niche and sell a few thousand CDs here and there, plus a few tours thrown in, well, you'll never be as rich as former roommates Flea and Swan, but it sure beats washing dishes at Millie's or being a 38-year-old delivery boy, a light-bulb-flash revelation alluded to in "Cereal Song."
Bob's strength on this fine new outing, as in the Monster, is as a collaborative lyricist-singer-songwriter whose talent and charisma help to attract the right combination of co-writers, arrangers and musicians to make it happen. Apart from one co-write with former Monster guitarist Dix Denney, the lovely "Rainin' (4 a.m.)," the new crew boasts the immensely creative young guitarist/ multi-instrumentalist/co-writer Josh Klinghoffer, bassist/ co-writer/co-producer Josh Blum and drummer/co-writer Kevin Fitzgerald.
I recently enjoyed an afternoon with clean and funny Bob (Bob at his best), whom I've known on and off since mid-'83 from lurking around the Cathay de Grande, Club Lingerie, the Zero, Power Tools, Raji's and the many other drink-'n'-dope dives of the day. Bob talked about his new band called the Bicycle Thief, the new album, being a dad, education and the shortcomings of the L.A. Unified School District, corporate pop culture, the Musicians Assistance Program and many other things unprintable, and there isn't space anyway.
"NOW I'M IN A BAND WITH A 19-YEAR-OLD AND A 24-year-old," says Bob. "I learn from them, and they pick up a few tips from the old dog, too, so it's cool. Josh, the guitarist, recently turned down a tour with Nine Inch Nails, and when I asked him why, he said, 'It just doesn't excite me -- anybody could play the guitar parts in Trent Reznor's music. I love you and playing your music.' That spun my head around. Maybe there really is hope. This was from a kid whose first live gig was seeing Pearl Jam, whose dad was into Led Zep, the Stones and Springsteen a little later, so it's likely our guitar player was conceived with In Through the Out Door in the background, or maybe it was The River!"
Bob also pointed out that for some of us older fuckers disinclined to roll over, there's the very real dilemma of what to do about the very unfunny nightmare issue of the formal education of our progeny. Dad Bob addresses this over the funky, irresistible groove "Aspirations," about his 12-year-old son, the angel Elijah, who is fed up with school.
"The L.A. Unified School District sure makes my life hell. My son is bored to tears by a whole bunch of cold numbers, dates and facts, which is the way all the LAUSD curricula are designed. The how and the why are always left out, and there's nothing on how all this information relates to kids' lives, or anybody's life, so your kid rebels and fights with you, and all you're trying to do is encourage him to get a basic education.
"But the big upside of being Dad is learning about the world through his perceptions. Although we share the same belief system -- that everything basically sucks -- I'm forced into positive reasoning rather than just whining along with him, and it helps me so much to dwell on the positive.
"One day I noticed hair under his arms, and I'd see him talking to girls, so I said, 'Son, the time has come for us to have a little biology talk,' and the script went something like this: