The Bevis Frond - Any Gas Faster - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Bevis Frond - Any Gas Faster

by Jeff Penczak Rating:6 Release Date:2016-07-29

Apparently Cherry Red’s much-ballyhooed Bevis Frond reissue campaign has not yielded the desired returns, so Fire have picked up the gauntlet, starting with the second album originally released on Reckless back in 1990 (the first, The Auntie Winnie Album was Cherry Red’s final offering, albeit in a 2xCD version with an entire disc of unreleased bonus material). As bonus material, Fire have appended the live tracks from the contemporary “Ear Song” EP that were recorded at Fælledparken in Østerbro in central Copenhagen almost exactly 26 years ago (11 August, 1990). These are amongst the earliest recordings of the live incarnation of the band (Martin Crowley on drums – he also manned the kit on the album, making these studio tracks the first to include someone other than Mr. Frond himself, Nick Saloman, playing everything; Rustic Rod Goodway on guitar, and long-standing bassist Ade Shaw).

     Whether at Reckless’ insistence to record something more accessible or Saloman’s attempt to tap his pop sensibilities, Any Gas Faster eschews the more adventurous tendencies of previous releases to concentrate on your basic four-minute pop tune...to mixed results. The playfulness begins with a caliope-merry-go-round pump organ and screaming teeny boppers introducing ‘Lord Plentiful Reflects’ and it’s a right corker, with Crowley a more than credible stand in (sit-in?) for Saloman on the drum kit and patented screaming guitar solos, all within the service of the catchy tune. There’s a tad of the Blues Magoos ‘We Ain’t Got Nothin’ Yet’ propelling the gnarly punker ‘Rejection Day (A.M.)’, although the bluesy digression robs it of its inherent thunder.

     ‘Ear Song’ was a puzzling selection as a plug track for its accompanying (aforementioned) EP as Saloman’s strained vocals and disjointed arrangement aren’t accurate reflections of his undeniable skill at setting intelligent lyrics for memorable melodies. Perhaps the next track, ‘This Corner of England’ might’ve been a better choice: a wistfully nostalgic remembrance of village life that’s the equal of anything Ray Davies ever thunked up. I could’ve used more of the sitar coda, though. Thankfully, ‘These Dark Days’ answers the call!

     But many of the other tracks, while a fine listen first time through, don’t have the hook that makes you want to return to them after the album ends. Oh, there’re plenty of blazing solos and Crowley’s maniacal pounding is an asset, but the songs lack pizazz and lay about like stale soda pop. ‘Somewhere Else’ and ‘Head On A Pole’, are angry, Hendrixian proto-metal that show off Saloman’s chops but little else. A no-holds-barred ‘Olde Worlde’ nearly saves the day, but by then (it’s the last track), it’s a little too late.

     And therein lies the problem with what has gone down as, arguably, the weakest Bevis Frond album – stellar playing, but without the songs, melodies, hooks, and arrangements that rope the listener in from the first note and don’t let go until the record ends. Perhaps it can be written off to the strained relationship between artist and label, as Saloman returned to performing all the instruments himself and self-releasing his next album on his Woronzow imprint, and it would turn out to be universally hailed as his finest effort and one of the high watermarks of ‘90s psychedelia.

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