[…continued from last post]
After the last burst of energy, it was time to dial down the intensity to finish the album. “Fruits of The Earth” was a slice of downtempo House with lead vocals from Bryan Powell. Dr. Robert was only represented in the track by a manipulated sample of him saying “dance with me baby.” Oddly enough, another sound bite, immediately familiar to me, was used once at the song’s mid-point. It was then that I heard the distinctive “…meanwhile…” as spoken my producer/announcer William Dozier in the “Batman” TV series from ’66-’68 that I’m obsessed with.
On the closing “As The Dust Settles,” Dr. Robert returned like an emcee who was hosting not an album, but a variety show of sorts. Willing to give the project a final sense of his stamp of authority even as he took pains not to dominate the proceedings. That’s as apt a metaphor as I can conjure up for “Springtime For The World” and The Blow Monkey’s place in it. We were given another downtempo House number with a sense of melancholy bringing the album to a close.
From the title alone, I had been expecting a sequel of sorts to “Atomic Lullaby,” but the sense of optimism that the fall of the Berlin Wall engendered was probably the foundation for the “Springtime For The World” album, in case the title alone didn’t make that perfectly clear. So there were no nuclear war references in “As The Dust Settles.” Instead, the song took a reflective glance at the whirlwind of human activity and change to take stock in what change they could bring from within to it all.
And following the song’s fadeout, it left only a snare loop beating for a bar until the song’s false, cold ending. Then there was a hidden coda where a minor key House groove looped for an additional two minutes. With lush synth patches giving rise to tambourines and drum loops to provide dancing in the face of no matter what would happen next.
This was an album that evaded expectation in so many ways. The House Music style of the singles preceding this album were, on one level, carried through on, even as the other half of the album opted for a prescient World/Chillout vibe that was maybe 18 months ahead of the curve. In 1990, nothing I had in my Record Cell sounded quite like this album. Within a year or two, it was the harbinger of a genre unto itself.
Sonically, it was a huge break with all that had come before, no matter how eclectic the group had been. And they were no slackers on that front as the last two albums had proven. There were huge breaks with the band’s foundations. There were hints of Jazz and Soul, but filtered through entirely different sensibilities. This was the first Blow Monkeys album with no string section. When we review just how the first five albums relied on it, this was no casual break with the past. It was a case of the band removing part of its foundation. And it really sounded like the nascent technology of making music with samples and loops was fully embraced on this album. I hear almost no traditional drumming on this album.
There were interjections of sax and bass, with perhaps Mick Anker getting in the best instrumental shots from the band on the entire album with some great bass solos manifesting. But for the most part, the album represented an ideal of the band surrendering itself to outside forces, which would mutate the music into new and exciting forms. While Dr. Robert had often sung about the need for community and collective action in th4 past,, he walked the walk and talked the talk on “Springtime For The World,“ because the album dispensed with The Blow Monkeys as a dominant entity for creating music and instead posited the band as merely the starting point for an actual community.
One which reached across different languages and cultures. In this way, it was prefiguring a project that was decades ahead in Dr. Robert’s timeline, but one that was very cogent to the lessons learned on “Springtime For The World;” the Monk’s Road Social project with three albums under its collective belts in the last three years featuring Dr. Robert and a host of his friends and associates making albums that function as a descendant of albums like this one and the 4AD This Mortal Coil collective. But where these Dr. Robert projects break with the 4AD ideal is in their utter disdain for rigid stylistic constraint.
Albums like “Springtime For The World’ and the Monk’s Road Social recordings are dedicated to the idea of not just pushing back, but eliminating boundaries altogether. These projects exist for the excitement of collaborating without too much in the way of a roadmap, nothing in the way of ego, and are exciting albums to get lost in. I really must get all three Monk’s Road Social albums. I noted the first one in 2019, but the development of the subsequent two within a very short time took even me by surprise. Albums like this one and those speak to enormous artistic growth and a healthy outlook on making music. Which is why the next step in The Blow Monkeys career was a startling one.
Next: …Checking Out