|Stay The Same|
As British as a bloody good punch up after ten pints, brassier than a bag of trombones and as downright daring as a heart surgeon with no arms, Bent are the quintessential English sonic pirates.
Since their debut album 'Programmed To Love' came bursting out its strait jacket into your living rooms in 2000, choice tunes like 'I Love My Man', 'Always' and 'Swollen' heralded a new direction in leftfield dance, nay, pop music.
A modern day musical Jeeves and Wooster, the pair still carry on like
playtime never finished. Dressing up as doctors while churning out a deep sonic sea of sound, squirming with xylophones, panpipes, lush electronic and on their latest outing, umm, how can we put this . David Essex?
Having achieved worldwide recognition and record sales healthier than a
vegan's fridge, the duo are back in 2003. The new album is called 'The
Everlasting Blink' and is their second contribution to the cause.
Making their first appearance in 1999, the Bent boys would notoriously fill
their Nottingham bedsit with dodgy secondhand records to sample. Fast
forward a few years and their Geoff Love and Top Of The Pops 1979 days have been left behind.
'We've done so much random buying that we've got every shit record you can get," chuckles Simon Mills (giggler, purveyor of bizarre Eighties
hairstyles, owns sausage dog called Dallas). "I mean how many versions of Mantovani do you need?"
Now the proud owners of a suitably vague "30 or 40" synthesisers to tinker with, Simon and other Bender, Nail Tolliday (ex outdoor rave controller, looks moody but heart of gold, new dad, caustic wit) are in danger of coming over all cerebral. Take the new album title, for instance, 'The Everlasting Blink'.
"It's just a phrase that popped into our heads,' shrugs Simon, mysteriously adding, "but a blink can be an eye shut or an eye open. It's about birth and death and this album is talking about preservation of life."
"In fact," continues Simon, "the opening track 'King Wisp' sounds like
birth, while the last track, 'The Everlasting Blink' sounds like death. It's
not a concept album, although it has seemed to have created a theme for
itself as it came together."
Thus we experience somewhat surprising but ultimately genius collaborations with David Essex on 'Stay The Same', fleeting Seventies pop icons Captain and Tenille on the Balearic beauty 'Magic Love' and Billie Jo Spears on the country hoedown of 'So Long Without You', not to mention BJ Cole's legendary pedal steel guitar twangs and Nail's newfound talent on the drums.
From the opening angelic auras of 'King Wisp', we're reminded why we love being Bent so much. Harps in dance music? Yes please! Then there are 20 second long mini operatic adventures, The Beloved's Jon Marsh singing sweet as a bird on 'Beautiful Otherness', country and western swings by for a quick one and the future Balearic gem of 'Magic Love' begs to be the soundtrack for a gloopy chocolate bar ad, coming on like Everything But The Girl getting bummed by Grace Jones.
But fear not, japesters, it's not all beauty and beats . once a daft bugger,
always a daft bugger. On 'Exercise 3', panpipes, a funk bass and Deep Forest tribal chanting share a seat.
"When we're making music we don't want to pressure ourselves into being up our own arses," avows Simon. "We sit there having a laugh and we feel playful, just like kids playing. If you try and be clever it sounds like
Now standing proud with two albums under their belts, plus Nail coming to the fore as a drummer and vocalist - with a little help from esteemed
producer Stephen Hague ("He's the master of pop records and if he can make Bernard Sumner and Neil Tennant sing he can make it work for us!").
"We're just really happy how it has all come together. 'Programmed To Love' was never really a straight up artist album, more a collection of nice
tracks. This is really our first proper album," explains Nail.
"The main thing with this record, that's hopefully similar to our first
album, is it sounds quite optimistic and hopeful," sums up Simon. "We're
sick of hearing moody shit."
And so say all of us.
ROB DA BANK
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