Bob Schneider has always mystified me. How could one man get so popular in one major city without having much of a cultural impact anywhere else? I mean, yes; Schneider plays other cities. But there’s no way his popularity there can even come close to his popularity here in Austin. Last summer, I spent several months booking shows and festivals around Texas, and the only guarantee we ever had was when Bob Schneider played Austin. That was the only time that we knew with absolute certainty that a show would be a runaway financial success. This man is a superstar here. Everywhere else? He’s just another aging adult contemporary crooner.
Looking at parts of his discography, Schneider’s success is understandable. He’s a charismatic bad boy who, while fronting the Scabs, sings a song entitled, “I Fucked Your Daughter in the Ass, Boy.” He found some modest success early on with the Ugly Americans, doing jam-band kinds of material, and with the Scabs later explored funk and Latin rhythms. He was edgy once upon a time.
Schneider’s solo career began in earnest with 2001’s Lonelyland, which saw him start to shave down some of his edges, and he has continued his own Rob Thomas-ification ever since. He still produces a gem every now and again (“40 Dogs” is probably one of my favorite love songs), but tends to just play it safe, and rest on the laurels that he really only has in Austin.
Schneider has just released Burden of Proof, having settled into an every-other-year record cycle, and it seems that nothing has changed. His edginess has devolved into sophomoric humor that, on a track like “Wish the Wind Would Blow Me,” turns a potentially sweet romantic song into a groan-inducing nightmare. Schneider also slathers his ballads with heavy string arrangements (like “Digging for Icicles”) that define this as an album full of New Age torch songs.
Tracks like “Unpromised Land” (borrowing heavily from Bowling for Soup and other mid-00’s distorted-guitar pop-rock) and “John Lennon” (an auto-tune drenched monstrosity) pepper the album, lending it an inconsistent overall tone.
The bright spot is “The Effect.” It’s a spare, acoustic number that builds slightly over the course of its two minutes. There’s a gentle forward-moving rhythm that is accentuated by a handclap-stomp. There are no strings, no sophomoric jokes, no dated adult-contemporary hip-hop beats. It’s just a great musician and good songwriter showcasing his unadulterated skills. Why he doesn’t do an album full of songs like this is mystifying.
I imagine I’ll remain frustrated while Schneider tries to be everything to everyone, but the rest of Austin will love him. He is our own personal celebrity, and we need someone like him to help draw out more moderate music fans. But when he can finally be himself for a full album, he may get the national attention he deserves too.
– Carter Delloro