I first discovered The Bevis Frond around the time of their second album, the still wonderful Inner Marshlands. That was 31 years ago and since then the Frond, aka Walthamstow’s psychedelic elder statesman Nick Saloman and his trusty crew, have released approximately as many albums, around half of which sit on my shelves. Which makes me almost a fan, I suppose.
Me and Kat, who digs it as she’s purring away, are sitting here taking in what is possibly Nick’s last album if the completely undisguised signs and portents in these lyrics are anything to go by. From anyone else, the lyrics to We’re Your Friends, Man could only be the text to a withering final statement, but then again Nick has always had a deep vein of world-weary cynicism running through his songs, especially where the music biz is concerned, and lyrics akin to those on the album opener, the ironically entitled Enjoy are scattered throughout Nick’s long discography, so you never know. However, “This is the sound of being left behind” and “Maybe I just can’t do it anymore” sound pretty final to me. The tune backing this doom and gloom is of course an upbeat rabble rouser in the grand Frond tradition that will have us groovies bopping on our Zimmers, should we be lucky enough to catch one of the planned gigs next year. The song ends, of course, with a three-minute psych guitar wigout, as it bloody well should!
Nick’s enthusiasm for his music is still obvious, even though his lyrics often plough the slough of despond. “I never learned to act my age” he sings in that familiar world-weary slightly nasal but fragile drawl on I Was A Bird, and we are all grateful for that.
Melody has always been the main driver of Nick’s songwriting and there are several toe-tappers and earworms on We’re Your Friends, Man, and Nick’s muse, battered though it might be, both by age and by being spat out of the biz wringer on more than one occasion, shows no signs of losing sight of what’s important – the tune. There is an energy within these zeros and ones that puts his contemporaries to shame, and it makes you feel 25 again just listening to it. At volume 11, of course – Kat has now scarpered, she has her limits.
Riffs abound too and those of us that haven’t gone bald might be shaking our remaining twenty six head hairs to any one of a number of mighty fine rocking dandruff looseners on here. When You Cast Me Out is a prime example, the calmer verse giving our vertebrae a chance to recover before the massive guitar thing in what passes for a chorus batters our remaining follicles into submission. The following becalmed Birds Of Prey shows the other side of the Frond coin, an introspective number both lyrically and musically, and along with the title track and the acoustic ballad Mad Love are fine examples of Nick’s gentler side. Our man knows how to pace a set.
The rhythm section are Ade Shaw on bass and Dave Pearce on drums, both long-standing band members from the Frond/Woronzow Records stable, and being the veterans they are, they contribute a solid and unfussy anchor to Nick’s flights of six-string fancy, which are nailed on, right to the point, and dripping with righteous kosmik fury. While Nick is zooming around Proxima Centurai b, second guitarist Paul Simmons shows the way home, and there’s a guest appearance by acid rock trooper Bari Watts, who lends his splendidly fried guitar to proceedings.
There is no twenty-minute prog meandering here, and there is no fat on this baby, oh no. The longest track here is the 13 minute album closer You’re On Your Own, one of Nick’s trademark Neil Young-duels-with-Jimi beasties, this time bringing the traffic to a halt on the Westway, which if it is a full stop on the recording career of one of the longest running and most underrated bands to have trod the boards, then there is no better way to sign off. Outsider blues never sounded this good, and this album made me the forget the fast approaching cliff edge of the “B word” and the current omnishambles that passes for a government on this sometimes stupid little rock off the coast of mainland Europe, and that takes some doing I can tell you. TURN THIS MUTHA UP!!!
If this is to be the last Bevis Frond album, then what can I say but thanks for the freakery, and I wish all the Frondies well for the future. For those of you in readerland, if you like a good tune backing withering lyrical blasts interspersed with guitar wigouts of fine fettle, then you need to buy this baby.
01. Enjoy (6:08)
02. We’re Your Friends, Man (3:26)
03. Pheromones (2:19)
04. Lead On (8:16)
05. In The Leaves (3:37)
06. Little Orchestras (3:44)
07. Growing (4:17)
08. A Hard Way To Learn (2:44)
09. Young Man’s Game (3:42)
10. Venom Drain (3:51)
Time – 42:06
01. Theft (3:08)
02. Gig Bag (2:15)
03. I Was A Bird (3:13)
04. Old Wives’ Tales (3:13)
05. When You Cast Me Out (2:44)
06. Birds Of Prey (2:43)
07. And Relax… (4:27)
08. The Steeple Doesn’t Reach The Sky (3:27)
09. Mad Love (4:45)
10. You’re On Your Own (13:00)
Time – 42:56
Total Time – 85:02
Nick Saloman – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Paul Simmons – Guitars
Ade Shaw – Bass
Dave Pearce – Drums
Bari Watts – Additional Guitar (on You’re On Your Own (probably, given its splendid geetar fury!))
Record Label: Fire Records
Catalogue#: FIRE540 (LP or CD)
Date of Release: 7th December 2018
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