The Bordellos ‘Will.I.Am, You’re Really Nothing’ (Small Bear Records) Released 31st May 2014
“If you don’t believe in rock’n’roll, you don’t believe in life!”
It was Blur, in one of their only true flashes of inspiration, who came closest to summing up the times with their dejected conclusion that “modern life is rubbish”. That was the early 90s, but depending on how long in the tooth, worn-down and jaded you are, every age can be viewed with the same disappointing sigh of resignation. Yet, surely the present times take some beating, at least to us, the self-appointed custodians of the past, who remember an age when the culture seemed…. well, at least exciting, linear and comprehendible, instead of appropriated without thought or context, screwed-over and manipulated for largely commercial results, and slotted in to a handy off-the-peg lifestyle choice. Pop has eaten itself, with the lifecycles of trends and music becoming ever shorter.
It is with all this in mind that The Bordellos set out their manifesto. Levelling their criticism at commercial radio and TV especially, they aim their guided missile attacks at the harbingers of the Ed Sheeran topped Urban/Black music power lists, and what seems more and more like the UK publicity wing of conservatism, the BBC. The St.Helens, via a disjointed Merseybeat imbued lineage, family affair Bordellos replace the “happy-go-lucky” lightweight and deciding suspect women’s rights champion, totem of Pharrell Williams, Will.I.Am and all his partners in floppy platitude pop, rock and folk with the arch druid of counter-cultural esotericism and miscreant obscure musical sub-genres (Kraut to Jap via Detroit rebellious and experimental rock), Julian Cope. Grinding out a dedicated epistle to Cope, the trio’s sermon, ‘The Gospel According To Julian Cope’, prompts a road to Damascus conversion to the spirit of rock’n’roll, in all its most dangerous guises.
De facto idol, Mr.Cope, pops up again on the ‘My Dream Festival’, which as the title suggests is a list of the ideal, once in a lifetime, free festival lineup; read out in a quasi-Daft Punk ‘teachers’ style bastardized litany to an accompanying Casio pre-set drum track and watery effects. The Casio rhythm pre-sets and occasional sound bites come in handy again on the jaunty, deadpan disco jolly, ‘Elastic Band Man’ – a transmogrified Human League meets John Foxx – and on the broken-up, Robert Wyatt emotional drudge, ‘Between Forget And Neglect’.
Despite going at it hammer and tongs on their anvil-beating Cope Gospel, the Bordellos latest long-player protestation is a forlorn and intimate downbeat record. They can still be relied upon to rattle off a list of grievances and opprobrious pun harangued song titles: from the LP’s play-on-words adopted Smiths song, reworked to accommodate a big fuck-you to that irritable twat, Will.I.Am, to name-checking another hyperbole anomaly of our Youtube, Google, Facebook, Twitter masters’ bidding, the no less frustratingly lame ‘Gangnam style’ viral – joining the call from last year’s Bring Me The Head Of Justin Bieber EP, for another public execution.
But it’s with a certain lamentable introspection that they also tone the vitriol down to attend to matters of the heart: The kiss-me-quick, misty-eyed ballad to love on a northern coast seaside town, ‘Straight Outta Southport’, and the Hawaiian slide guitar country rock ode, ‘The Sweetest Hangover’ both, despite their tongue-in-cheek titles, bellow a fondness for lovelorn adventures and plaintive break-up regret; proving that despite the bellicose calls for the corporal punishment of the foppish elite and its commercial pop music stars, there is a tender side to the group.
Sounding like it was recorded on an unhealthy dose of Mogadon, Will.I.Am, You’re Really Nothing is a composed grumble from the fringes of a battered musical wilderness. A last cry if you will from the pit-face of rock’n’roll.