This Bike is a Pipe Bomb

By Mark Grabowski

Growing up, I was amused and sometimes amazed to find that standardized tests seemed to be my bitch. Bubble here, bubble there, somehow I kept ending up on top when the scores were given out. Nowadays most of my early fire/luck has burned off; I guess I still have my moments, but sometimes I feel like quite a dullard. One piece of standardized testdom that has stuck by me through the years, seemingly tattooed in my memory, is the difference between a metaphor and a simile; yes folks, thanks to umpteen years of public schooling, I can unequivocally say that This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb is a metaphor. They are also a rockin’ good folk/punk trio.
Hailing from Pensacola Florida, This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb has a loose and loud sound, but you can tell the band started out with the original intention of playing country– they even perform a cover of “16 Tons” by Merle Travis. Lead singer/guitarist Rymodee’s high register vocals scream at you in a down-home style Charlottesvillians should be well acquainted with (Hackensaws, Hogwallers). Terry Johnson plays some admirable bass and sings backup, her lines skating around Rymodee’s energetic-but-simple guitar strumming like the intrepid star of some video game past, dodging cars, logs, or whatnot. Teddy Helmick is a reported jack of all trades; here he keeps fine time, shuffling behind the others and frequently slipping into a locally familiar bluegrass-like beat.
Rymodee is also learned in the harmonica, which makes appearances on a number of their tunes, along (at least on recordings) with the viola playing of a mysterious character named Spot. Sometimes they sound a little like cult-favorites the Vaselines– the Scottish indie/folk/pop quartet who partially gained prominence thanks to constant banding by Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain (Nirvana covered their song, “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam” on their MTV Unplugged performance). Sometimes they sound like Jeff Tweedy’s more rock/pop contributions to alt-country superstars Uncle Tupelo.
Rymodee’s vocals are often garbled beyond recognition, but using the song titles as a guide, it is possible to get the gist of what he is saying on most of their songs. “Of chivalry and romance in a dumpster,” speaks of love and dumpster diving. The “Black Panther Song” starts out something like, “The Black Panther Party are you ready for me/ after 25 years of signs can’t you see me.” Yeah, I have no idea what he’s talking about either, or even if my transcription is correct, but the point is it’s fun stuff, rousing good-time music, performed by clever and with-it individuals, and if you are looking for a good time tonight, what more could you ask for?

This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb performs with The Devil is Electric and Abe Froman at Tokyo Rose on Thursday, June 13. $5, 10:30.

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