15 May 2014
The Bevis Frond "High In A Flat - Highlights 1987-1990"
Reviewed by Nathan Ford
Cherry Red have two excellent releases this month that do their best to prove that the eighties wasn't necessarily the black hole for psychedelia that it initially appeared to be (we'll talk about the other of these two releases very soon).
First up and heralding the arrival of a mighty, and unprecedented reissue campaign that will see the first seven Bevis Frond albums reissued on vinyl and CD with copious amounts of bonus tracks comes this tidy and thoughtfully compiled collection of material from those first seven albums plus sundry other bits and pieces (notably the flexidisc guitar-fest that supplies this collection with a title) spanning the years 1987-1990.
Nick Saloman had a number of initial stabs at bandcraft dating back to the late sixties, with "varying degrees of non-success" (his words), before an insurance payout from a motorcycle accident allowed him to kit out a home studio which he quickly set to work in, with debut "Miasma" originally intended to be a one off. 28 years later he's still going strong with over 25 albums to his credit.
While the lo-fi home production values of these early recordings, coupled with Saloman's fondness for crunchy, overdriven guitar tones tend to render the bulk of this material a little samey on the first few passes, acquaintances are soon made and tunes are then quick to come out of their shells and establish their melodic credentials.
Overtly psychedelic influences aren't dominant at this point, with tracks like the lovely, lysergic ballad "Corinthian" and tape manipulation masterclass "Once More" outnumbered by sharp, punky rockers like "I've Got Eyes In The Back of My Head" and "I Can't Get Into Your Scene" - tunes that have more in common with early Dinosaur Jr. or Teenage Fanclub than they do with Syd Barrett.
Frond fans tend to be a pretty obsessive bunch so if I'm preaching to the converted there's no need for you to read on, but if you're a dabbler or someone yet to discover the Frond magic, this is an ideal starting point for sampling Saloman's early years, and does a fabulous job of cherry picking most of the essential moments from a fascinating but sometimes patchy period leading up to the fabulous "New River Head".
Bargain price CD available here.