Thursday, October 09, 2008
Greetings once again Voyagers! This week we make Barbara Manning, last week's guest, look mighty prescient as we bring you one of those wacky Dorset men from The Lucky Bishops.
Trippers & Tripettes, please to greet Alan Strawbridge!
Alan, besides being in the above-mentioned band, also plays in Cheese, (who we've mentioned before), as well as Gothic Chicken. Prior to the Lucky Bishops he played in a band called Orange, (until Mr.Corcoran decided to go it on his own as The Orgone Box.)
Contrary to popular wisdom-which I surmise is garnered from his limited vocabulary, he HAS been outside of Dorset. Look it up. On your own time.
Here's a bit of what Wilson Neate of the mighty Trouser Press has to say about them:
"Formed in 1996, the Lucky Bishops were something of an anomaly in the Britpop era: the quartet of Luke Adams, Rich Murphy, Tom Hughes and Al Strawbridge came not from one of the urban centers of cool Britannia but from rural Dorset in the West Country. Their hook-laden blend of power-pop and neo-psychedelia paid close attention to the unfashionable concept of musicianship and showed an unfashionable range of influences that looked beyond the often homogeneous and parochial sounds of the time. And rather than having one frontman, each bandmember, even the drummer, took turns singing lead.
Having signed to Ade Shaw and Nick Saloman's Woronzow label, the group released its debut album in early 2000. The Lucky Bishops is an eclectic, self-assured record that displays great potential. To some degree, the Bishops' sound is typical of the period, recycling many Britpop generation influences: "Casanova" has a glam flavor, "I'm Convinced" is Beatlesque, and anthemic tracks like "Stratosphere" have a late-'70s new wave feel (XTC being another reference point). But while showing a strong retro sensibility, the Bishops set themselves apart by using their influences as a creative springboard for a sound decisively their own. Credit the prominent keyboards (especially Hughes' Hammond), a de-emphasis on guitars and the integration of varied secondary instruments (flute, xylophone, trumpet, violin, cello et al.). Indeed, the Lucky Bishops' diverse, often slightly eccentric, sound is more adventurous than many of their peers' and reveals several eccentric inspirations. The bouncy "She's Gone" gestures toward the Move and the Zombies; an interest in prog rock (think early Yes) comes through in the disciplined attention to shifting keys and time signatures ("Bad Time"); and a penchant for multi-part harmonies makes consistent allusion to the Beach Boys.
Named after the Dorset town where the band lived in a picturesque thatched cottage (until it collapsed), Grimstone is a solid follow-up. It's less instrumentally diverse than the debut — tighter and more focused — with chart potential in the anthemic "You Come Alive" and the piano-based ballad "In Everything I Saw" (which pays homage to Squeeze). Nevertheless, the band stays on familiar ground, further developing its own quirky dialect within the psych-pop idiom. Retro keyboards remain a crucial ingredient, most memorably on "Strange Times," which echoes the Nice's earliest pop-orientation, and "Pigeon," in the vein of Barrett-era Floyd. With harmonies and horn flourishes, "Napoleon" recalls classic West Coast sunshine pop.
Time changes occur throughout the record, most effectively on the jerky choruses of "Rock Stars." Guitars figure more prominently on Grimstone and the band rocks harder than before, particularly on the charging "Doppleganger." A minor difference between Grimstone and the first album is the lyrical content. The upbeat music on the debut belied a spiky attitude; for Grimstone they seem to have mellowed somewhat, notwithstanding songs with titles like "I Hate This Town" and "Life in Hell."
And here, Fred Mills at HARP Magazine gives a brief but focused review of their latest, 2006's Unexpect The Expected, from Australia's great Camera Obscura label:
"Previously found at Bevis Frond’s venerable Woronzow label and now on an equally respected Australian imprint, the Bishops’ stock-in-trade includes sunny four-part vocal harmonies, glammy swipes of guitar and nefariously intentioned keyboard twists, with references both classic (Spirit, Zappa, XTC) and contemporary (Gomez, Beta Band, Super Furry Animals). From the dark side of the magical mystery tour that is “Witches” to the slinkysexycool psychedelia-noir of “London Lounge” to the oh-so-arch Small Faces/Kinksian dancehall pop informing “I Must Destroy My Brain,” there’s nary a weed to be found in this garden of itchy delights."
(Given they've made three albums in 12 years we may see the end of the Mayan calendar before a new Lucky Bishops LP drops. Just an observation.)
Right then, hurry up sleep take me or I'll be late for tea!
1. In ten words-or less, define "psychedelic music."
A musical plum floating in perfume served in a bowler hat
2. What is the most psychedelic instrument, why?
The bass guitar - all good psychedelic music should have a prominent, melodic and rhythmically exploratory bass line. Preferabably a chunky Rickenbacker 4001 through a valve amp or a nice glubby Fender sound with the treble rolled off. Mmm...
3. Favorite psychedelic album of all time?
"We are ever so clean" by Blossom Toes. Brilliant orchestrations over sweet concise nuggets of pop filled with witty lyrics, lovely harmonies, and chunky production. For me it epitomises great psychedelia and has been a huge influence on the Bishops and my solo stuff.
4. You can change history by saving one rocker from his or her self, either from untimely death or a career cut short by drug use/abuse; who would you choose and why?
I'd give Pete Doherty the "get out of jail free card" so I could hunt him down, tie him to the back of my Austin Allegro Estate, and then drag him through the streets until all that is left is a spinal column and a patch of charred pubic hair. That'd teach him for being terminally shit.
5. Who, in your opinion, is the most underrated psychedelic guitarist?
Geoff Carbis who played me in the "Bitter little Cider Apples". He has a totally original skewed style which is sort of bluesy but sounds like no-one else. He guested on the first Schnauser album and has unfortunately given up playing.
6. What psychedelic album do you wish more people knew about?
I always thought High Tide were a great underrated band - "Sea Shanties" being my favourite of their two albums. Tony Hill's stuff with the Misunderstood was incredible and this was a more prog-orientated continuation of that. The album sounds like a live in the studio recording complete with a few mistakes which is quite endearing. Some of it borders on self-indulgence but the solos and guitar/violin interplay is so odd that I never get bored when they "go off on one". Tony Hill's vocals are nicely sinister (god knows what the lyrics are about) and the rhythm section is relentlessly chunky throughout.
7. What band, active today, most defines "psychedelic" to you?
The Super Furry Animals have been consistently "psychedelic" for many years creating accessible multi-layered and weirded-out pop songs without any signs of fatigue. "Rings around the world" is probably their most mainstream album but at the same time, it is packed with great songs imaginatively played and recorded. "Mwng" is their lo-fi classic entirely sung in Welsh and has a more folky and organic feel. Both superb albums.
I should also mention Gothic Chicken - it's me, Tom & Luke from the Bishops and Marco Rossi on guitar playing our favourite psych covers. Our album of originals is almost done - not necessarily homages but a bunch of pop songs recorded with relevant nods to some of our favourite 60's tracks.
8. What factor contributes the most to your own desire to play/create psychedelic music?
The love of a good pop song. The best psychedelic music should be epitomised by the song and not the production.
9. Top Ten Psychedelic Songs?
Ooh that's hard. Here's the first ten that spring to mind:
1. Blossom Toes - What's it for?
2. The Koobas - Royston Rose
3. The Shy-limbs - Reputation
4. The Misunderstood - Children of the sun
5. Tomorrow - Revolution
6. Electric Prunes - I had too much to dream last night
7. The Creation - How does it feel to feel
8. Wimple Winch - Save my soul
9. Soft Machine - As long as he lies perfectly still
10. Pretty things - Talkin' about the good times
10. Turn the tables, if you'd like, and ask me a question.
Alan: Is it safe?
-valis: Well Alan, I used to get this self-same query quite a lot when I was in my late teens and early 20s,(as you can well imagine.) Once I got married this particular question ceased being asked and-as it's been 23 years on, I've absolutely no recollection of my standard answer to it. My advice is: tread cautiously, take meticulous notes, adjust according to conditions, and please report back to us. Otherwise it's "He sido víctima de una estafa"...
Thank you Alan! Please bring us some more Lucky Bishops!