Fire Records’ ongoing campaign to reissue The Bevis Frond’s back catalogue gathers pace with a trio of albums that first saw the light of day in the early 90s, each accompanied by the now obligatory selection of bonus tracks and a set of enthusiastic, humble sleeve notes written by Frond mainman, Nick Saloman.
1990’s Any Gas Faster makes you wonder why Creation Records weren’t beating down his door to add the band to a roster that already included a number of bands in thrall to the same influences (Big Star, MC5, Wipers, Kevin Ayers and so on), and features a quartet of extra tracks recorded, incongruously, in front of 10,000 Hothouse Flowers fans in Copenhagen, originally released on the Ear Song EP. 1991’s London Stone starts with some hey-nonny-nonny fiddle — brief, curveball introductions are a hallmark of all three albums — and continues with Coming Round and That Same Morning, both processing the kind of wounded, chiming jangle that gave Teenage Fanclub a career, and Living Soul, which sounds like the version of Purple Haze Hendrix might have recorded were he from Walthamstow (by way of St John’s Wood) instead of Seattle. Of the extra tracks, the swirling blues freakout Hail The Child Philosopher is a highlight, even if the vocal sounds like it was recorded through gimp mask.
Best of all is the intervening New River Head, a sprawling double album which begins with a spoken word, Cholmondley-Warner introduction, continues with the wailing riffs and Stooges sax of White Sun, and never really lets up. The lovely, Paisley Underground-influence power pop of the title track manages to be both melancholic and upbeat at the same time, while the 17-minute The Miskatonik Variations II is an intoxicatingly dangerous blend of spiritual jazz, acid folk and mind-warping, overdriven psychedelia that would put Saloman on the radar if Mudhoney and Nirvana, among others.
Is it OK for us to say “National Treasure” yet?