30th Anniversary Vinyl Reissue: Birdbrain by Buffalo Tom

Back in 1986, Boston natives Bill Janovitz, Tom Maginnis, and Chris Colbourn formed the alternative rock band Buffalo Tom.


The name of the band was borrowed from Neil Young’s ‘60s rock band, Buffalo Springfield – combined with their drummer’s first name. Since then, the band has crafted highly memorable albums like 2018’s Quiet and Peace and 1992’s Let Me Come Over, which rock historians and fans consider to be Buffalo Tom’s breakthrough work.

However, some argue that out of their 10 albums in their more than 30-year career in alternative rock, their greatest album is still 1990’s Birdbrain, the second in their roster.

And on October 9, 2020, Beggars Arkive will be releasing a vinyl re-issue of Birdbrain, which Brooklyn Vegan reports will be the first vinyl re-issue of the seminal album since it was initially released and sold out.

Much like Buffalo Tom’s self-titled debut album from 1988, Birdbrain was produced by Dinosaur Jr’s guitarist J. Mascis, which at the time earned Buffalo Tom the monicker “Dinosaur Jr Jr,” which was also coined because the two bands share a similar ragged sound and fanbase. Janovitz, Maginnis, and Colbourn, the band’s guitarist, drummer, and bassist, all share songwriting credits throughout Birdbrain.

Buffalo Tom frontman Janovitz was responsible for writing Enemy, Fortune Teller, and Skeleton Key, which are arguably the album’s most heartfelt, deeply cutting songs. Apart from that, Janovitz also poured his heart out on lead guitar, filtered by the now-vintage Klon Centaur overdrive. The sound of the Klon Centaur is such a coveted tone in rock and grunge that budget pedal maker MOSKY made two pedals to copy its original sound. There’s the Golden Horse which is a purer version and the MOSKY Silver Horse which is a boost and overdrive in one. Janovitz’s preference for pedals, guitar playing, voice, and songwriting are largely responsible for Buffalo Tom being compared to grunge luminaries such as Pearl Jam, Dinosaur Jr, and Nirvana.

The only song in Birdbrain that doesn’t primarily feature Janovitz’s voice is Baby, which was instead sang by bassist Colbourn. Meanwhile, Sean Slade who is the co-founder of the seminal alternative rock beacon Fort Apache studio in Boston supplied the guitars for the song Bleeding Heart, as well as the backing vocals for Crawl. Combined with the fact that everything was produced by J. Mascis, no wonder the whole album still holds up today. Born during the peak of the alternative rock era which has gone on to influence artists like Nervous City, Foals, St. Vincent, The Foo Fighters, and The Strokes, Birdbrain is without a doubt one of the most momentous collections in early ‘90s grunge rock. And if you want to hear the album the way it was intended to be played, its vinyl re-issue which will also be printed in pastel mint green, will be coming out later this year.

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