Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians (EBatNB) was one of those artists that when they made their big splash, especially within the college/alternative scene, back with her debut in 1988, Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars, I was finally somewhat cognizant enough as a kid to “remember” all the hype. What I Am was a somewhat more than modest hit – actually, it was all over the friggin’ place for what felt like years – that solidified Edie (if not the rest of the group) as at least a one hit wonder. I can remember when her follow up, Ghost of a Dog, came out folks were like “Oh yeah, her…cool,” but they’d already moved on to Vogue or MC Hammer or whatever (well, the real fans didn’t but MTV did) and so she sorta fell by the wayside, and even though she’s released albums sporadically over the years, outside of a certain age demographic she’s pretty much only remembered for that one song and for being Paul Simon’s wife (they are still married, right?).
Though I’d heard it, I’d never actually owned a copy of this album before and was excited to pick it up for .25 (plus tax) at the second sidewalk sale. With the case cracked, scratched and covered in the remnants of dried tape goo, I couldn’t tell if it had been once well loved (or rather worn) or had just been rattling around in the Great Escape's CAN WE PLEASE GET RID OF THIS? bin for the better part of two decades. Regardless, I listened to it early on when going through the new pile (actually, I’ve still not given a couple a spin) and was surprised at my familiarity with these songs, only to realize (with music often being the key to memory) that I’d listened to it bunches of times with certain high school friends and college friends and friends in between, most all of whom have gone now but their imprints still remain in the form of Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars.
This album is truly an understated classic…if you like that sort of thing. WARNING: If What I Am gets on your nerves (and I can honestly see how it could) then you may as well stop there ‘cos the rest is essentially more of the same. Normally the whole folky/hippie/feel good vibe isn’t usually my deal, but this isn't normally, and there’s something overwhelmingly infectious and ultimately timeless about Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars that makes it appealing in spite of its warm, crunchy-granola feeling…or maybe in fact because of it. Edie’s lyrics are thoughtful and well crafted without being pretentious, they tell a story with a lesson while not being preachy and while there is an overall flow of positive, uplifting energy, it often comes with a gritty, slap of reality that makes the good feeling rather hard earned.
Musically it’s a laid back but controlled affair, the New Bohemians making it all sound so easy and fun but also taking what they do quite seriously. Sometimes you want to dance (Beat the Time), sometimes you want to just sit back, listen and enjoy (Air of December), but almost always you want to sing along. Edie’s melodies are open and inspiring and in some instances (Circle) will absolutely break your heart. In some ways this album defines the college alternative scene of the late 80s, and the fact that it was such a hit could have broken alternative three plus years before Nirvana (and in a completely different way), but at the end of the day they were just part of the “first wave” of alt-bands (the Cure, the Church, Depeche Mode, etc) getting a taste of mainstream success but never really breaking into the stratoscophic big time.
At the end of the day this is still just hippie jam rock, and variations of this album had (and have) been made since the late 60s, but rarely with such pleasing results. Edie and company are proof that a well written song can transcend the limited expectations of any given genre, and Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars does so a good 95% of the time…well worth a quarter.
Here's the "peeing" video, as I often refer to it, for What I Am...as well as the lovely Circle.