[…continued from last post]
I missed this album in its three month crowdfunding phase in 2014. “No problem,” I thought to myself. I’ll just grab it later. Later became seven long years where copies of this for sale even in the aftermarket were incredibly scarce on the ground! How bad was this? Well, PPM commenter Taffy was flying over to England to see the band on their tour for this album. I beseeched him, “could you pick me up a CD of this at the merch table?” No such luck, but I am the proud owner of a Blow Monkeys tour shirt!
It was not until the Blow Monkeys own Bandcamp Store added this album to its stock…in November of last year, following their latest opus, that I saw a copy for sale. Only six had sold on Discogs in the last two years. But now I could finally buy a copy… straight from the band! At a normal price, with them getting every cent. As soon as this was done I knew that I could finally dive into a Blow Monkeys Rock G.P.A. thread that I had been wanting to do from day one here, but I didn’t have all of the albums! So how was this evasive album?
The Blow Monkeys
If Not Now, When? | 2015
Right from the start this album popped with a vibrance that announced yet another page turn of the ever liquid Blow Monkeys script. Crisp beats and honking King Curtis sax from Neville Henry let us know immediately that the band were in a huge, new Pop phase. Maybe their biggest ever, with a call back to Eddie Cochran and Chuck Berry, according to Dr. Robert. Verse/chorus/verse…no middle eights. As direct as possible. But in practice, reaching back to the 50s meant that this music ended up similar to another British band that also did the same thing in the 70s; major Dr. Robert influencer T-Rex. This music also crackled with the same bopping energy, though no one would mistake Robert Howard for Marc Bolan!
But one can’t help but get caught up in the all-hooks-all-the-time excitement with some expert “sha-la-la-la-la-la-laaaaas” being deployed in the thrill-packed introduction to the song we hadn’t even heard yet, but already loved! The grooving swagger of “Ok, Have It Your Way,” was more immediate and direct than any other phase of the band I’d heard yet. The raucous organ and the energetic tambourines swept us up in the energy, and yet Dr. Robert remembered to invest the lyrics with more of his [usual] mordant political takedowns. What an all-guns-blazing way to open an album!
Now “The Sound of Your Laughter” was even further in the T-Rex wheelhouse! Starting out with rip-roaring lead guitar, slightly fuzzed out, was steeped in the Bolan boogie ethos. It was heavenly! The sax syncopating with the rhythm track. The pumping piano of Nigel Hopkins on the infectious chorus; consisting only of “Shoo-bop-bop, bop bop sha-dooby-dooby” was the point where even the hardest hearts would melt and follow The Blow Monkeys off to the ends of the earth, if necessary! Then, the fuzzed out guitar solo in the instrumental middle eight over the handclaps where the descending piano glissando heaved us back into the song proper at its finale was nothing less than a heart stopper worthy of Mott The Hoople in their prime. Two songs in and were dealing with pure Pop/Rock bliss that could lead to spontaneous human combustion, if things didn’t cool down, and quickly.
The sensitive, piano-led ballad “All That Glitters” offered a much needed respite with an excursion into singer-songwriter territory. But we didn’t spend too much time on a Dr. Robert solo album, as “Think Again” was trafficking in the sort of rhythms that reminded me of The Zombie’s holy “Time of the Season.” It began in a spartan fashion, but gradually piled on more filigree and detail as it progressed onward. The synths at the climax alerted me to the interesting fact that on this album [for the first time I can remember] Neville Henry was credited not only for saxes but also keys. I can’t help shake the feeling that I was hearing him play due to the different sound design employed.
The rollicking pop of “The Guessing Game” played out like a classic Stephen Duffy song, and in my book, that’s high praise indeed. I can almost imagine this song fitting right on the “I Love My Friends” album… it’s that good! It had a touch of Blues with that beat and the touch of slide guitar from The Doctor, but buffed up with a pop sheen that made for an excellent time. It’s always exciting when a band that consistently excels manages to up their game as The Blow Monkeys were doing here.
Next: …Sun And Shadow
This is one of the few post-imperial albums I don’t already have, and I’m delighted to hear that Bandcamp has come to our rescue on that front! Sampling the album most definitely gives off musical T. Rex vibes … just imagine if Bowie had produced this!
chasinvictoria – See?! You didn’t have it either! I mean, my gawd – Taffy couldn’t even get one for me at the merch table on the very tour for this album! This one was shaping up like another China Crisis – “Autumn In The Neighbourhood” scenario, where if you missed the Pledge Music window you weer simply outta luck, bucko! And like that album, this was NOT one to miss! When I saw it in Bandcamp following their latest classic, I hesitated all of zero seconds before bitting the “buy” button!
I seem to recall (perhaps erroneously?) that this album was panned by critics for leaning into a Sha Na Na/Showaddywaddy type cod-50’s revivalism. Screw that, I thought it immense fun, and loved the T-Rexy vibes. Thanks for reminding me of my little journey over to London to see the boys. What a fun show (despite my inability to snag you a disc!).
Taffy – Wha…??! That is insane! This album was nothing but a real treat from a chameleonic band that hit every target they aim at right on the nose! And thanks for the t-shirt, Taffy. Every time I wear it I can’t believe my good fortune. You’re one of the good ones.