Yesterday’s brief mention of the Bad Lieutenant album appears to have attracted the attention of the lovely people over at the New Order Online forums, who did a splendid job of pointing out all of the bloody irritating errors on the bonus discs of the New Order reissues that came out last year, resulting in the imminent appearance of corrected CDs. Ever the shameless publicity whore, it struck me that it might be worth going into a little more detail today. In terms of writing my review, I’ve got as far as my detailed notes for each track so I thought I might share some observations with those curious to know more.
1. Sink Or Swim
The lead off single and the one that everyone’s already heard. It’s one of the best tracks on the album, containing as it does the trademark hunched acoustic Sumner strum, a typically smooth vocal performance and an easy to remember refrain in, “what you doing, with that stupid little girl?” That said, beginning a theme that lasts for much of the album, it’s about a minute too long with a brief middle eight that doesn’t add an awful lot and then plenty of repetition until somebody finally remembers that they have to end the song. A reasonably decent opener, nonetheless.
2. Twist Of Fate
For those wishing to play Barney’s Bullshit Bingo with his famously clichéd lyrics, things really get going from here on in. I’ll provide my favourites in bold at the end of each song comment. Musically, it’s all rather lolloping. The chorus doesn’t have much to recommend it, although the verses are a little more curious in nature and there are some nice harmonies peppered across the track. The pace is a little monotonous and nothing much seems to happen which, once again, leads me to question why it needs to go on for quite as long as it does.
“head in a spin” “blink of an eye”
3. Summer Days On Holiday
Ok, I’ll forgive the repetition of ‘day’ in the title, even though it is bloody annoying. A fairly lively beat, which upon closer inspection on headphones appears to distort in rather ungainly fashion at times, gets things underway, with Bernard’s voice given an effect that sounds a little bit like what might have been considered a ‘futuristic’ sound in 1993. Thankfully, it doesn’t detract from the stock Sumner sound. Where this track really gets going is the wailed refrain of “sunshine on me” in the chorus, provided by Jake Evans, and sounding not unlike the chorus refrain from ‘Rise’, a track on Doves‘ debut album, ‘Lost Souls’. In fact, the plucked guitar sounds that accompany that part of the track also nod to the early work of everybody’s favourite Mancunian band named after birds. Lots of guitar-wanking goes on in the last minute or so, along with a brief, stuttering computer noise breakdown that is ever so slightly embarrassing. Too long again! Still the Doves-y bit’s good.
“wind of change” “whiskey bar”
4. This Is Home
A slightly more awkward and angular introduction got my hopes up but then soon after the usual acoustic chug kicks in and all is much as it was. There’s a nice little retro drum sound and vocal duties are shared between Barney and Jake to reasonably decent effect. If the quirky sounds from the start had had a little more prominence in the rest of the song I’d have enjoyed it more but it’s pleasant enough none the less. Once again, Jake’s offerings have a bit of a bit like Doves feel to them, which is no bad thing in my book. It does chug away for almost five minutes though and it really could have put its feet up around the three minute mark.
“I’m gonna open your eyes” “build you a ladder to the clear blue air” “higher than a bird can fly”
A gentle, floaty opening with plucked acoustic guitar and drifting electronic sounds, with a keyboard that sounds quite like a piano soon emerging also. It’s polished, it’s poppy and it’s very Radio 2. Get your lighters out for this one. Musically, it keeps on building and has a real sense of propulsion to it, without actually being all that fast. The drum sound is a little cheesy and it doesn’t take a huge stretch of the imagination to conjure the idea of this being sung by an ex-boyband member striving for success in the adult contemporary market, but that’s not to say it’s not a decent song. The piano sound takes prominence again towards the end and is all rather charming. One of the album’s highlights, ‘Runaway’, doesn’t really follow the chuggy acoustic, mid-paced drumbeat formula that seems to have been established by the initial four tracks and is all the better for it.
“I know it’s hard but you can’t run away”
6. Running Out Of Luck
This song uses the word ‘baby’ quite a lot. In my mind, that’s a very Bernard Sumner thing to do. Largely unremarkable, this track is another mid-paced plodder that doesn’t really go anywhere. There’s the odd nice ploddy piano sound, a couple of random bleepy bits and even what I’m fairly certain was a harpsichord. These bits are all lovely, but sadly not enough to save proceedings. Some abnormally raucous guitar kicks in around the three and a half minute mark but doesn’t really add anything. At just over five minutes, it’s the second longest track on the album but with no real justification for it. On my notes, I’ve written ‘feat of endurance’, which seems a little harsh now, but you get the idea.
“dreams have turned to dust” “shoot as straight as an arrow” “right there by your side” “like a shadow in your footsteps I would follow”
In which Bad Lieutenant listen to digital radio station Planet Rock for half an hour and then offer up a loving pastiche, largely based around The Who‘s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’. Not only is there a fluttering, bleepy noise that loops around in the background that sounds so scarily similar to the aforementioned Who track that it must only just be on the legally deniable side of original songwriting, but there are even some faux-Moony drum fills. All of which makes it bloody enjoyable. I can’t really remember the Bad Lieutenant bits, but everyone loves ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, so what’s not to like? All of that said, despite having my tongue firmly in my cheek, the more lively drums actually work an awful lot better than the monotonous chug found elsewhere and suddenly you start to wonder what might have been. Not only is there a “yeah yeah yeah” refrain in this, but also a “doo doo doo doo doo” refrain. That takes some bollocks. Throwaway rock pastiche, particularly the ending, but good smiley fun.
“what you gonna do about it?” “this is your chance to shine”
8. Poisonous Intent
Synth bursts that wouldn’t have displeased the Pet Shop Boys in the middle of the eighties seem to be the order of the day here. Some very light, tinny computerised drums tinker away in the background and contribute to the very dated sound on this track. Opening line, “Hey bad man, what you gonna do when you can’t go back to the life you knew,” sets the tone and Barney sounds almost annoyed at this person, at one point even saying they’re “full of shit.” There’s something strange about hearing him swear. It’s like Huw Edwards opening the news with, “Evening, wankers!” Stil, even with the dated sound, this a pretty strong song, only let down by the toe curling lyrical brainfart that occurs two thirds of the way through the track and which can be found in bold below.
“so hit the road jack!” (Honestly! I wouldn’t lie to you.)
9. Shine Like The Sun
And then, completely without warning, the album turns into an Embrace record for the final two songs. This track, with Jake on vocals, sounds uncannily like the McNamara brothers’ ‘Out Of Nothing‘ era, at times reminding me of the mood of ‘Ashes‘. Now, I do have a soft spot for the odd Embrace tune, but as a business model in 2009, it’s probably not the safest move. It’s also a bloody weird to the album, Barney’s vocals simply disappearing after track 8. Don’t worry, the lyrics don’t improve in his vocal absence. The ending has a more classic rock feel and reminds me of something, I just can’t quite think what. It’s pleasant enough indie, but were this the summer of 1996, it would have gone straight into the chart at No.37 with a bullet, just next to The Supernaturals.
“we shine like the sun” “going where the wind blows”
10. Head Into Tomorrow
To continue the Doves comparison, the weird echoed voices off the start of ‘Words‘, from ‘The Last Broadcast‘, seem to put in an appearance during the slightly noodly but endearingly contemplative guitar strum at the start of this, before the vocal kicks in around the fifty second mark, again sounding quite like Danny from Embrace. With a ‘Strawberry Fields’ organ thrown in for good measure and a chorus that would be hard done by if not described as ‘anthemic’, this track is actually a rather charming way to wrap things up. This one is slowly growing on me and, dare I say it, Jake’s appearances are amongst the most enjoyable moments on this record. Barney may well be spot on when he says that Jake is “a gifted new singer.”
“watching rivers roll into the sea”
So, there you go. I’m not quite up the double-figures number of listens I do before writing a final review, but hopefully it gives those keen to know an idea of what the album sounds like. I know some people have noticed longer tracklistings on certain sites, but this is what’s on the promo. Apparently, there will be 12 and 14 track releases, but these tracks were added too late for the promos. Something to hang on in there for. No doubt many will disagree in the fullness of time with things I’ve written, but these are my thoughts and I stand by them. For now, at least! It’s a good but not great record. I wanted it to be better but I’m glad that it’s still not bad at all. It may yet charm me further.