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Thursday, 13 October 2011

Be Bop Deluxe - Drastic Plastic

South Yorkshire 70's post rock.... f'kin awesome name , f'kin awesome band and a f'kin awesome album..... if you dont mind me saying of course..... have a read through the blurb below or alternatively just crack on with the tunes.... its probably for the best !  

Bill Nelson has never been content simply to tread water by repeating a previously successful formula, and the transformation of his band Be Bop Deluxe from straight rock to post-punk minimalism is completed with this, their final album before he split the group and formed the experimental but short-lived Red Noise. After the guitar excesses of Axe Victim and Futurama, Be Bop began to attract attention in the USA, and Nelson, who's no fool, must have realised there was a good chance of his band becoming very big over there had he continued in the same vein. To his credit, he put artistic integrity and his desire to experiment ahead of the lure of the dollar, and Drastic Plastic, released in 1978, is certainly very different from those first two albums four years earlier, although 1976's Modern Music had showed the direction in which the band was heading. Even so, the album must have surprised many fans; the word "drastic" is not misplaced. The tender lyrics directed towards his wife Jan have largely been replaced by descriptions of a confusing and sometimes frightening new world. Musically, it's stark, black and white, with most tracks having a relentless rhythm that's repetitive, but never in a boring way; rather, one feels comforted by the hypnotic feel. Electrical Language welcomes you in, its lyrics consisting of the same four lines repeated, mantra-like. After two more fairly intense songs, there's some light relief given by the delightfully odd Surreal Estate, with its see-sawing, piano-led tune and Whistle While You Work coda. Love in Flames is the hardest, most aggressive and guitar-based track, somehow reminding me of early Stranglers. Panic in the World and Dangerous Stranger, the former borrowing the riff from Bowie's Heroes, continue the "Brave New 1984" theme, then comes the extraordinary Superenigmatix, subtitled Lethal Appliances for the Home with Everything, in which machines have apparently taken us over. Its lilting piano is abruptly hijacked by barked, staccato lyrics. A dramatic change of style arrives with the slow, hesitant instrumental Visions of Endless Hopes, recorded outdoors. Listening to its fragile, fractured beauty, you can almost feel the sun's warmth. The respite is brief, however: Possession returns us to crisp, rapid rhythms and more paranoia about inanimate objects ("I think machines and clocks have secret motives") then comes what was the final track on the original album, Islands of the Dead, written by Nelson as a reaction to the death of his father. It's a slow, gentle song, mixing sadness and hope, and is quite a relief, an easing of all the tension that's preceded it. The three bonus tracks rather spoil the feel of the album (my advice would be to listen to them separately from the rest) although they are all worthwhile, particularly Blimps, a strange, doom-laden instrumental that sounds like an attacked piano crying for help. Even if it were a musical failure (it certainly isn't), Drastic Plastic would still deserve great credit for the sheer bravery of its change of style from previous works. Few other albums have shown a comparable shift: Sergeant Pepper, of course, Talking Heads' Remain in Light, Bowie's Low....Talking of which, the NME once said of Low that however long ago it was made, it would always sound like the future. No less a compliment can be paid to this album.

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