The Blow Monkeys
Springtime For The World | 1990
1990 brought a radical shift to The Blow Monkeys with “Springtime To The World.” The pre-release single on this occasion had been an EP of the title track in May of 1990, but it had fallen on deaf ears. The single foundered at number 69 and only troubled the charts for two weeks. The album followed the next month and in line with the trend back then, was only a title I saw in the import CD catalogs that I had come to rely on. I ordered my copy and when it arrived, I dropped in in the CD player and was presented with an album that had few familiar Blow Monkeys touchstone on offer.
“In Too Deep” was a juddering slice of Art Funk that suggested Talking Heads crossed with the kind of Art Rock that The Explorers had committed to wax with the stunning track “Ship Of Fools.” While that record had the classic Peter Gabriel rhythm section of Jerry Marotta and Tony Levin to stake its claim on. But The Blow Monkeys more than rose to the occasion here to create an equally powerful vibe to open the album like a thunderclap.
Mick Anker’s bass was syncopating powerfully with the drum loops they were using this time out. The brass were adding stabs that accentuated the tension. And speaking of tension, Dr. Robert’s lyrics were staring the wheels of finance and power in the face as usual, if centered on a more personal level than normal. This song cut to the essential struggle that we all faced.
“Springtime For The World” had been the first single though I had not found a copy until some years later, so when I heard it the first time, I was immediately struck by its amazing similarities to the cover version of “Follow That Dream.” Much of the music bed was actually identical, from the cello loops to the tempo, though the rhythm loops were more grandiose here; sounding like thousands of handclaps. It seemed like the Elvis cover might have started life as a demo for this song, but the deep dive into a Psychedelic Soul sound was still the goal here. As was the delivery of defiant lyrics within a joyous song structure that build bridges [as ever] to the LGBT community marginalized by Clause 28 in Britain.
So… after two stone cold Blow Monkeys new classics, mapping out to new and wildly disparate musical destinations, the band threw what would be a significant curve ball with the third track. “Vibe Alive” was an instrumental! It was more bongos and claves [shades of “Follow That Dream”] forming a minimal groove with only bass and distant synth horns for company. Until the vibes of the title took the spotlight for a solo; giving us a lot of groove without many other landmarks we’d come to expect in a Blow Monkeys song.
But then the next track, “Reflections ’89,” seamlessly segued into “Vibe Alive.” Extending and mutating the instrumental groove as the vibes faded away and sound bites from the political voices who defines 1989 were mixed into the groove, with Margaret Thatcher and George Bush’s voices jumping out of the mix. We were now four songs in with only two appearances by the band’s vocalist Dr. Robert on the album so far. This was not our father’s Blow Monkeys album! Then the album took a sharp left turn…drove off the pavement, and hit the booster rocket button.
Next: …Le Roi Du Rai