Sunday 28 October 2012

BMX Bandits In Space

BMX Bandits release their latest album 'BMX Bandits In Space' tomorrow (29th October) on Elefant Records. I was lucky enough to get an advance copy and I've had a week with the album, so lets check out what Duglas T Stewart and his band of Bandits have been up to...

Before I go any further I have to say that this is a gorgeous record, following on from the remarkable 'My Chain' and 'Bee Stings' that were released in quick succession back in 2006 and 2007.

'BMX Bandits in Space' tells the story of a man travelling through time and space in search of forgiveness and a way back home. Throughout the trip there are small flashes – some are memories and some are figments of his imagination.

The album opens with 'In Space', and it is quite trippy for the Bandits. There are lush strings and Stewart's voice is layered with effects as he sings about '..drifting in space for so long, endlessly singing the same song...'

For anyone new to the Bandits, Stewart is a romantic who wears his heart on his sleeve and he sounds head over heels on this record.

Where there's love, there is hope
Where there's hope, there is you
It's time to start to live

'Still' bubbles into life with a lovely piano riff, gentle acoustic guitar and Duglas singing with real emotion (as he does throughout). The song is a collaboration with Plectrum from Japan and on the evidence of this tune they should get together more often. The gorgeous outro is hypnotic and you can easily get lost (in space) to it.

'Beautiful Friend' picks up the pace before 'Look At You, Look At Me' continues the dreamy feeling that a lot of the songs (and the brilliant production) bring to the album. The song is another collaboration, this time with Cineplexx from Argentina, it also sees Rachel Allison singing for the first time on the album.

'Like The Morning Sun' is one of my favourites from the album, Allison takes on lead vocals for this one and it sounds like she enjoyed singing the beautiful and clever melody.

The album really starts to come into its own with the brilliant 'Listen To Some Music' with Duglas name-checking some of his favourite songs and artists, wearing his musical influences on his sleeve along with his heart.

God only knows what I'd be without you, Brian and Tony know how I feel
They helped me figure out what I was thinking, in the song they made it real

And if you ever need a friend
Just play that song once again
It is one on which you can depend

For those that have followed Duglas and the Bandits, and especially those that have seen Jim Burns 'Serious Drugs' documentary, this is a song that really sums up Duglas - music is his life and it has seen him through some tough times. The song is playful, melodic and meaningful.

'Elegant Love' is the second collaboration with Cineplexx. A duet with Rachel, it has a great feel to it with an uplifting chorus.

'And It's You' hit me instantly, it is totally gorgeous and incredibly catchy.

And if I live to 103
You're still gonna be
A big part of me

The chorus is pop perfection.

And it's you
And it's me
It's a complicated story like the best ones can be

Bandits songs have that instant appeal but they also have an incredible amount of depth, especially when Stewart is on top form and he is on form on this album; lyrically and in voice. The Bandits he has assembled are also on their game and the production is sublime.

'You Disappointed Me' has Rachel singing of a lost love that led her on, she fell for him, believed in him but was ultimately rejected and hurt. The melody is almost nursery like at times.

'Fucked Up This Time' takes the album to a darker place after the head over heels love songs like 'And It's You'. It has a great groove to it and although Stewart's vocals continue to be hushed and considered, there is clear hurt, regret and perhaps a bit of menace in his performance here.

'Fireworks' is a pretty special song for me as it was written by my wee sister! That's right, my wee sister has a song on an album by a band I have been following for a couple of decades. It is rather surreal and Duglas has been exceptionally supportive of Carla and her band TeenCanteen.

The melody flows easily, the lyrics are funny and moving and it is just lovely to hear the care that the Bandits have put into the recording and performance.

'All Around The World' tells of the search for hope and how there has to be something out there.

I believe in beauty, I believe in it and where ever it leads me, that’s where I’ll go
You must believe in something, cause if there's really nothing, then there is no hope

'And While We're Dancing' is a slow waltz style song, Stewart's vocal is especially considerate for this number, beautifully fragile, combining in stunning fashion with Rachel.

Now close your eyes and maybe you'll see
An older you dancing with an old me
Our friends and family will all smile to see
Us dancing our waltz of love

'The Unforgiven' has another stunning vocal performance from Duglas, only accompanied by piano at the start. This has to be a career highlight for the BMX Bandits, if they can swear in one of their song titles then I am going to say that this is fucking brilliant, the closing half of the song flows superbly and the backing vocals are beautiful. Listen to this on headphones. I can't wait to see and hear this performed live.

'In Space (End Theme)' has some lush strings to end the trip.

In the aforementioned documentary 'Serious Drugs' there are a couple of mentions about how BMX Bandits are perceived - perhaps not taking things too seriously (or being taken seriously), Alan McGee even mentioning that some people think (or thought) they are (were) a joke band.

I hope these people listen to BMX Bandits In Space (as well as the previous two albums) as they will discover an artist who pours his heart and soul into his work. Love and hope are out there, you just have to look hard enough, it can be tough at times, but keep at it. It is all worth it in the end.

Duglas T Stewart is in the best form of his career, reaching new heights and creating some wonderful, wonderful moments.

Check the album out, there are some signed copied in Monorail in Glasgow and there are only 500 vinyl copies (pictured above).

Saturday 20 October 2012

Tim Burgess at Oran Mor

Why do people go to gigs and chat?

Ok, you need to talk at times during a gig;

'He nailed that', 'beautiful version', 'on form tonight', 'oh they fucked that up'......but the volume of chat during last nights Tim Burgess show at Oran Mor was ridiculous, half the venue must have been chatting during the quieter moments, either that or texting. The mind boggles.

Thankfully it didn't ruin what was a brilliant gig and I pushed further forwards to be treated to a sublime version of 'A Case Of Vinyl' with Martin Duffy on piano/keys playing a blinder.

Support came from The Velveteen Saints who I have blogged about before - check them out here. They played a short, sharp and energetic set and I'll be writing about them in more depth following their next Glasgow show at Sleazys in November. 

Further support came from the Hatcham Social and 3 of the band went on to back Tim during his performance. They had their moments, most noticeably with 'Crocodile'.

Tim bounded on to the stage to greet his adoring masses and I have to admit to being surprised by his choice of set opener, it was a bold choice to play 'Tobacco Fields', a stand out track from his album (reviewed here). Electric guitar combined well with Mark Collins on acoustic and the band showed great confidence in taking their time to let the song build.

The pace picked up with one of the highlights of the night, 'The Economy' with Burgess getting the falsetto spot on. His voice is getting stronger and better with age.

Tim was on great form, there was banter and handshakes with the crowd and disbelief that someone had a tattoo of his signature on their arm.

The airing of 'We All Need Love' and 'Oh My Corozon' (from Tim's first solo album) with their big choruses and upbeat sunshine pop vibes lifted the crowd and were real highlights.

There was a real sense of freedom from the performance, there is no denying Burgess is a great front man but his performance last night showed him to be a leader and motivator as well, linking closely with Collins in particular, he was down on his knees in front of Collins for a sublime version of 'A Case Of Vinyl' with Martin Duffy from Primal Scream playing some spellbinding and spine tingling notes on piano.

'The Great Outdoors Bitches' was another highlight, as was 'The Graduate', Tim bounding and dancing to the country vibes.

There was a short break before and encore of 'A Gain' with the backing band on superb form for the harmonies and gospel section, Tim was right on the lip of the stage, arms aloft for the refrain;

I'll not brave the dancefloor for you (Again)

'White' ended proceedings, northern soul mixed up in a Melting Pot with Americana vibes.

I look forward to finding out what Tim comes up with next.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Oh No I Love You by Tim Burgess

Tim Burgess is currently a prime example of a 21st century artist, recognising the need to move with and embrace the times, to look to the future but also celebrate the past and to have more than one string to your bow.

In 2012 Burgess has celebrated the past in his autobiography 'Tellin' Stories', also touring the album of the same name with his band The Charlatans. He has embraced technology and is prolific on twitter, his make believe coffee shop Tim Peaks has now launched its own coffee and there is talk of a real coffee shop opening too. 

Tim has produced artists(R.Stevie Moore), roadied for artists (Factory Floor) and discovered artists (Keel Her). He has curated his own tent at a festival (Tim Peaks featuring Roddy Frame and Edwyn Collins amongst others) and also set up his own label, O'Genesis Recordings.

It is through O'Genesis that Burgess releases his second solo album 'Oh No I Love You', 9-years after his debut 'I Believe'.

If 'I Believe' celebrated Tim moving to LA and being head over heels in love, 'Oh No I Love You' is the come down album, reflecting on true love, but a love lost.

What is remarkable about this album is that Tim didn't write the lyrics, they are provided by Kurt Wagner from Lambchop. The two met years ago when Tim roadied for the band and casually suggested writing together, it took a while, lets check out the results.

The opening song 'White' was an obvious choice as a single and album opener, in many ways marrying The Charlatans and Lambchop in a glorious ceremony of grooves and melody.

'The Doors of Then' shuffles and swings straight into your heart, all warm and reflective. It is one of my personal favourites from the album.

Oh no, I love you
Hello, I love you

'A Case for Vinyl' was our first taster for the album, released as a free download and via an Uncut Magazine CD. It is one of Burgess' best vocal performances in his career, his voice breaking like a heart that has been broken in two.

Just because I didn't win, my playlist hasn't changed all that much

those guitars all turn to violins, just because I didn't win

'The Graduate' features exquisite slide guitar, before the introduction of some stunning strings rranged by Sean O'Hagan) on 'Hours'. 

In my life, I'm seduced by a power
That has grown, ever darker in those hours

And I swear, hours now become the measure
See us there, counting backwards from a million

'Oh No I Love You' is the sound of Tim Burgess as you have never heard him before and it is rather delightful. The variety in Tim's voice, from youthful enthusiasm, to reflective lived, loved and lost experience is something that Charlatans fans like myself know that he is capable of, but this album gives him space and license to sing in a way that I haven't heard before. 

'Tobacco Fields' is a prime example. Get your headphones on for this one folks, poetic lyrics over a gentle melody. It is like a lullaby, Burgess' delivery is (along with the aforementioned 'A Case for Vinyl') quite incredible - a career highlight in many ways, the depth and feeling, the ability to rise and fall...

Somehow I missed it, just 
Used to be birds, now they're not
Flying over, flying over, blowing me away
Blowing me away, blowing me away

'Anytime Minutes' lifts the mood, jaunty country pop, the melody and delivery are more in keeping with the Tim that most people know.

I could only give you history
Self-explanatory gifts for free
I am never going to know you now
I am always going to love you though

See my memory is not complete
I didn't seem to free or sweep you off your feet
All I wanted was some careless love
Why'd you have to be so damn obvious?

Don't wanna fly a kite
Don't wanna plan no fairytale

'The Great Outdoors Bitches' is another personal favourite of mine on the album, although it is all good and there is a lot to dig into. Burgess takes the lyrics he was given on a sunny stroll through country soul, the melody and use of brass let it flow superbly.

I have the right to hold on to
When the past befalls the present old and new
Everywhere I look reminds me of you

'The Economy' features a tremendous falsetto by Tim, some lovely steel guitar, handclaps and (like all of the album) excellent production and feeling. Another highlight, can't wait to hear and see this live.

You can tune me, a piano
Just like everything we thought that sex would be

'A Gain' sees Tim ponder over love lost again and I would say that along with 'A Case for Vinyl' and 'Tobacco Fields' this is a song that really shows off Tim's voice, ability to adapt and his range at its best. The refrain (below) is just gorgeous.

I will not brave the dancefloor for you (Again)

And that is that, a brilliant album that I will return to many times, there is a remix album and bonus tracks  but for now, this is the album 'Oh No I Love You' reviewed.