Summer is here!


The tenth BMX Bandits album is here and that means summer is officially open for business.

“BMX Bandits Forever” celebrates the heyday of pop innocence, meaning that the 60s have to make room for the 50s as well as the 70s. All packaged in vintage Scottish indie pop perfection; soft maybe but with no added artificial flavours.

There are some interesting covers here: a fumbly version of Leonard Bernstein’s “Somewhere” that you will either love or hate; a slightly murky “That Lonely Feeling” allegedly by early 60s sister-duo The McKinleys although I have previously only heard a decidedly sprightly take by Dean Ford & The Gaylords; the Beach Boys’ “Forever” in order to justify the album title; and a song called “Mais Do Que Valsa” that you will swear comes directly from a High Llamas album. Well, it doesn’t and if you listen to Marcos Valle’s original from 1973 you will not only realise that it is a faithful homage but also where Sean O’Hagan got his unique sound.

But – importantly – this is not a covers album and the original compositions effortlessly hold their own ground. You just need to hear the fabulously bittersweet and instantly memorable intro song “My Girl Midge” to understand that what we have here is pure pop class.

The vocal interplay between main bandit Duglas T Stewart and new songstress Chloe Philip brilliantly appeals to your heart as well as your brain. And Stu Kidd (of Dr. Cosmo’s Tape Lab and The Wellgreen fame, not to mention Euros Childs and many others) adds a playful stability to the rhythm section, apart from also being main musical collaborator to Duglas on this project.

You can’t hide your love [to BMX Bandits] forever. You need this album this summer.

Genre-bending pop masterclass


The Blood Rush Hour has a new album out, and it is appropriately titled “Who Folds First”. I say appropriately because as a listener you can take that as a question and a challenge.

Although the sound is very smooth and the multi-tracked male voices are as buttery as on any Beach Boys record, musically it is a daunting listen. This is a pop record but the further you get into it, the longer the distance seems to be to the next recognisable refrain.
Not for everyone. But if you accept the challenge and get through it from start to end – skipping of tracks explicitly forbidden – you may be on to something.

Then you listen once again.
And again.

Now, you are starting to recognise some turns and twists. You begin to appreciate the careful yet rather abrupt sequencing of songs. You are starting to hum melodies. You are even smiling wryly at the two sorely needed intermissions the band have thoughtfully included.

At one point you catch yourself by starting over from the beginning directly after a straight listen. Not very practical to do with this 16-song, 51 minute humdinger. But by now you don’t care, because you have come to accept this as one of those rare albums.

This is not a “Countdown to Ecstasy” by Steely Dan; not a “How Dare You” by 10CC; not a “Swoon” by Prefab Sprout; and not an “On Land And In the Sea” by Cardiacs. It can’t be, because then it wouldn’t be the genre-bending pop album that it is – and that all those are.

Although this is already The Blood Rush Hour’s third amazing album, I have little clue as to who the people behind the band moniker are, except that they seem to be spread out across Wales and the US. But the group is clearly the brainchild of Robert DeStefano, who has written all the songs (except for one co-write with Dan Lavery). He has produced the album and is the main lead singer on the majority of the songs.
And in my world, he is also a bona-fide superstar. Mr. DeStefano, if you read this, you are truly my hero.

So, who folds first? Are you up to the challenge?

Gratis raritet


Robert White startade sin musikerbana i det experimentella popbandet Zag And The Coloured Beads tillsammans Michael Tubb. Med Tubb och Bic Hayes bildade han sen Ring, varefter Hayes och White gick med i mer kända Levitation. White är därmed en person som varit med i kretsen kring pronkbandet Cardiacs redan från början.

De som läst något jag tidigare skrivit i ämnet vet att jag helt ohämmat hyllar allt från denna krets. Så även mr White och hans gärning som ledare (igen tillsammans med Tubb) för det onekligen bitvis lite väl soldränkta och honungslena Milk and Honey Band, vars skivor numera finns tillgängliga som “pay what you want” på Bandcamp.
Redan detta är något att fira – men det som verkligen är värt att notera är att “In Colour” sedan några dagar också finns tillgänglig på samma sätt. Efter att ha funnits tillgänglig en kortare tid som download och i en begränsad promo-upplaga på 300 ex, har den varit omöjlig att få tag på.

“In Colour” var tänkt att bli uppföljaren till den ganska väl mottagna “Dog Eared Moonlight” på Andy Partridge’s Ape-etikett. Men istället rann allt ut i sanden. Robert White berättade för mig för något år sedan att killen som drev skivbolaget bokstavligen var apjobbig och att det hela mynnade ut i en lång rad missade chanser som gjorde att mjölken sinade och honungen definitivt tog slut.
Men nu är det bara att ladda ner och njuta. På “In Colour” har White fullföljt den alltmer västkustinfluerade riktningen från tidigare plattor, nått varvet runt och landat i ett samspelt Beatles/Byrds-bandsound som inte är helt väsensskilt från exempelvis Teenage Fanclub.

Kostar inget för den som inte vill – missa inte!

Magical mystery bus

In eight years Magic Bus have produced only three albums. They certainly take their time and just like previous outings, the new “Phillip the Egg” feels unhurried and relaxed. And truly comfortable with itself.

Imagine that Caravan had decided to move to California after their 1969 debut and ended up in some small secluded place just north of San Francisco. Cut off from what was happening back home, they would then take their unique Canterbury vibe in a subtly West Coast direction.

Magic Bus of course never did that, but instead they have wrapped themselves in an English countryside time bubble all of their own. This is retrogressive rock, but when it is this good and unassuming, one can only have praise.

Although the instrumentation is primarily electric, the sound is strikingly organic. Unfortunately. the simple reason may be hard rehearsal practice to make up for lack of funds to spend more than nine days in the recording studio. But the result is nevertheless the sound of a real band playing, not a studio spinning on empty.

Tempos shift but not in a muscular way. Although individual instruments beg you for attention – organ, mellotron, flute, guitars that play solos, and drums that play melody in that old Canterbury way – the focus here is clearly on the whole rather than the individual.
Magic Bus very much feel like a hippie collective and they play magical, mystical music. The album unashamedly starts out with the rather epic “Mystical Mountain” and there is even a subsection name to the track title, “(i) Twelve Kings”.

But don’t worry, this stuff does not get lost in pretentious crap. These guys know what they want and how to get there. Their music will put you in sync with the universe. That is, if you just have the courage to let it.