The Bevis Frond - Triptych

by Jeff Penczak Rating:7 Release Date:2017-08-25

Fire continue their Bevis Frond reissue campaign by making their limited edition (500), double white vinyl Record Store Day reissue of Nick Saloman’s third album (hence the title) available to a wider audience via this 2xCD version. And again, it’s extremely confusing for fans and completists, as most of the bonus tracks were just released two years ago on the Cherry Red CD reissue and three of the four extra bonus tracks are also included on Fire’s simultaneous Auntie Winnie Album reissue (and I didn’t like them there either). I feel for the poor Frond fan trying to catch up.

This one is a real family affair, as Nick’s daughter Debbie bangs away on a drum kit (well, maybe it’s pots and pans) for 25 seconds (‘Debbie’s New Song For Drums’ – 100 seconds of drummer Phil Collyer “Exorcising The Daemons” is only slightly better, mostly because he uses a real kit) and his mum warbles ‘Hey Joy’ for 88! Throughout his early career, Saloman recorded several gorgeous, mellow instrumentals, but few top the navel-gazing rumination of opener ‘Into The Cryptic Mist’, a dreamy Floydian headnodder that’s the equal of anything Gilmore set to tape.

We also get to experience the original version of Saloman’s “biggest hit”, ‘Lights Are Changing’, which highlights his gift for mapping indelible melodies with heartfelt, knowing lyrics and should have been massive back in ’88. It’s easily one of the half dozen greatest songs in his large repertoire. Mary Lou Lord (accompanied by Roger McGuinn and Saloman himself), The Phonies, and Psycho Daisies have all taken a stab at it, but Saloman’s original is still the best.

Saloman still can’t resist the temptation to kick out the jams, muthahfuckahs, so we get the finger (and throat)-shredding ‘Gemini Machine’ and ‘Nowhere Fast’ to annoy the shit out of us, but the organ-driven sentimental tearjerker ‘Old Man Blank’ works because of a tasty (and, thankfully, reined-in) guitar solo that services the song and not Saloman’s ego. ‘The Daily Round’’s backwards guitars and heavily-echoed vocal effects and the gentle baroque acoustic guitar/organ duet, ‘Corinthian’ illustrate Saloman knows what to do with his toys. He drags them all out for the epic (as in NINETEEN FUCKING MINUTES!) ‘Tangerine Infringement Beak’, which mostly throws everything that’s wrong with the self-indulgence of self-recorded/produced home recordings into the mix and is strictly for undiscerning air guitarists to practice their, uh, craft in front of a mirror. The epitome of the term “filler”.

Highlights among the ten bonus tracks (all of which have been previously released across many previous reissues) include the strident rocker ‘Time To Change’, the haunting, elegiac organ instrumental, ‘Pilgrim’s Way’, which belongs in the same stratospheric trophy case as “Cryptic Mist’, the acoustic jingle-jangle of ‘You Got To Unwind’ (that sounds like an early stab at ‘He’d Be A Diamond’, shortly to grace New River Head), and the clever, yearning pop confection ‘High Wind In The Trees’, featuring a great (and somewhat familiar) guitar riff, but painfully horrible vocals that may explain its relegation to “bonus track” status. As with most bonus tracks (on any artist’s album), more does not necessarily mean better.

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