Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bilge Pump - "Rupert The Sky"

When Drowned In Sound redesigned their website, this review got lost. I found it again so here it is:


Aaaah, Bilge Pump.

There exists in the UK a sub-underground culture of bands that make fine music but never stick their head above the trench long enough for anyone to truly notice it. It's not a reflection on the quality at hand but more on the way that people pick up on bands and respond to things like 'hype' on a really basic person-to-person level. The UK has always had a really strong and interconnected network of bands like this, from which a Franz Ferdinand or a Foals has occasionally sprung, again not as a reflection of quality but more a reflection of ambition and willingness (and opportunity) on those bands' part to 'play the game' a little.

Ben Patashnik's comment (in the Dis review) that Bilge Pump have somehow got the potential to "grow into being a fine underground band" is a statement that perfectly encapsulates what I am referring to. If by 'underground' band he means a band like the aforementioned Foals or Mclusky who are 'underground' in the sense of that being a buzzword or a descriptive term of their output (in the same way as 'indie' has become) then he is right. With some 'work' and a little direction then they could become that. I don't doubt it. But those bands are as overground as it gets. The band isn't just the people playing and writing the music, it's a whole network of individuals making it happen for the small cottage industry that is 'the band'. Which is all fine of course but it's not to be mistaken with what this is.

The actual "underground" in the UK is just that. Underground. Self-sufficient. Relatively undisturbed. It exists on a rung way below even the most lowly touring bands that arrive on our shores from the USA. Despite this, Bilge Pump have become not just a fine underground band, but the finest, bar none. The influence of this band, both as a musical unit and as people, is hugely far reaching. Cultish even.

Fortunate then, that the second album from them, Rupert The Sky, is so amazingly, heart-swellingly awesome.

Every song is a microscopic world filled with ideas (both musical and lyrical) that lesser bands could extend to entire concept albums. Musically it swings and rocks as hard as Zeppelin at times, as a 3 piece band they have a natural psychic ability to make absolutely anything, no matter how noisy, possess an irresistable groove. It's humorous but never wacky, noisy but never blustering, complicated but never pointless. The lyrics are a series of perfect little snapshots, like some strange haiku. Lines like

"We were genuine happy children, but our Dad was a miserable cove. His parting shot... spread his brains across my frock"

are as bizarre as they are rich in their knack for setting a scenario that would be far less complete were it described in any more detail. Couple this to a musical language that is entirely their own and any notions of comparing Bilge Pump to other bands seems somehow redundant.
When people talk about bands existing out of the mainstream or being independant it's usually an 'angle', and more to the point you're usually being told that by a manager or a journalist thus making the whole statement something of an oxymoron. In a way, it's a shame Bilge don't make more of their history, lineage and influence on others as maybe listing a series of celebrity fans of the band might make it easier for shitty journalists to fill a few hundred words and maybe it'd give people an 'angle' on them. But at the same time, it's what makes them (and this record) so amazing.

The only reason I didn't give it 10 is because there's not enough of it and I'm gutted that I'll have to wait another couple of years for the next one.


Bobster said...

chris, this post is basically my phd thesis!

Chris Summerlin said...

Correction: "...predates my phd thesis"

Bob said...

please don't tell anyone!