Welcome to Bliss/Aquamarine - alternative, underground and indie music.


Earlier this issue I reviewed Jim Basnight's latest album Not Changing. I have since received a selection of other albums from his back catalogue, some solo and others with The Moberlys and The Rockinghams. All are released by Precedent Records, and most are 2004 reissues of earlier albums.

Jim Basnight's Pop Top originally came out in 1993 and is just as much a rock 'n' roll album as a pop album. My Vision of You is a fantastic song that seamlessly combines the ringing guitars, soaring vocal harmonies and harpsichord of 60s psychedelia with a harder-edged 1980s rock sound. Houston Street oozes with rock 'n' roll dirt and a tense, brooding atmosphere. Asphalt Field is dark and heavy rock with gothic lyrical imagery, wailing guitar soloing and forceful vocals, perhaps more for 80s/90s metalheads than pop fans, yet there's undoubtedly a melodic and catchy sensibility there. Mr Resident combines the classic driving powerpop sound with a psychedelic shimmer. Hello Mary Jane is riff-driven rock with an infectious melody. Evil Touch has a bouncy good-time rock 'n' roll sound that calls to mind in some ways those ELO songs where rock 'n' roll is at the forefront. In the most part, this doesn't sound like an underground album but the work of a melodic rock superstar; in fact it's hard to know how he didn't become one. Whilst I have little patience for the one-dimensional, bland, manufactured mainstream music of today, chart music didn't always fit that description. Pop Top harks back to the days when the charts still had room for authentic music with strong melody and a sense of eclecticism, and as such it's much easier to relate to. There is nothing manufactured or shallow here, just good honest well-crafted music. Strongly recommended whether you're into 60s pop, 70s rock 'n' roll, or 80s heavy yet tuneful rock.

The Jim Basnight Thing, originally released in 1997, has a general emphasis on vintage-style pop-rock informed at times by American folk traditions, jazz, film music and beyond. Elma is a countrified number seasoned with violin that sounds part barn dance, part Stephane Grappelli, and mariachi-esque trumpet. Don't Wait Up is sophisticated pop balladry given a smouldering late-night jazz feel courtesy of muted trumpet. Lattes is a very catchy, bouncy and cheery ode to coffee in all its formats, ornamented by piano, strings and brass and sounding like it ought to be a song from a musical. The album closes with the appropriately named Summertime Again, a sunny janglepop song combining folky aspects with soaring strings and brass.

The Rockinghams' Makin' Bacon originally came out on the well-respected powerpop label Not Lame in 1997. This is a classic powerpop album, in which fuzz, buzz and muscle coexist with strong melodies; it's not in the least bit one-dimensional though, and there are frequent references to other genres within the powerpop setting. There's the summer fun of Need a Car; Baby Jane is angsty, edgy and screamy and sounds influenced by 90s alt-rock and grunge; More Than One Way is country-rock with punk attitude; She Gives Me Everything I Want beefs up this Hollies song with powerpop oomph; and Rock and Roll Cowboy is riotous rock 'n' roll with a sense of humour. A couple of songs from Jim Basnight's previous solo albums are revisited here - the ace Hello Mary Jane, and a punked-up version of the mega-catchy Lattes which is just as exciting. A top quality album that's a must for powerpop fans.

The Moberlys' Sexteen is a compilation album, originally out on ATM Records of Germany in 1995, not to be confused with their 1984 album of the same name. The band has two main facets, a cheery, melodic 60s-style pop side and a heavier side dealing in hard-edged rock 'n' roll and punk. There's the sleazy garage rock of the title track, and the fast and furious punk of She Got F****d, both of which are pretty in-yer-face and not for the easily offended. There's the rock 'n' roll chug and snarl of Last Night, and I Return which combines a wild, distorted rock sound with a classic, catchy pop melody. On the poppier side, there's the perky 60s-influenced You Know, I Know, loaded with jangle and harmonies, the janglepop-with-guts of Blow Your Life Away, the heart-on-sleeve pop-rock balladry of Come and Gone, and Love is Beautiful which has the authentic sound of an early-to-mid 60s beat group.

Jim Basnight & The Moberlys' Seattle - New York - Los Angeles was originally released in 2000 by French label Pop the Balloon. There's the Beatlesque Lose Me; the bouncy guitar pop of Your Fool; What I Wouldn't Do which blurs the boundaries between country-rock and powerpop; and She Always Smiled which is 1980s-ish jangly indie pop with a rock kick. Summertime Again appears in a new version, a fantastic janglepop song sure to appeal to fans of 60s bands such as The Byrds and the 80s/early 90s indie pop of pre-Velvet Crush band The Springfields. Ain't It Funny is Byrdsy folk-rock combined with mariachi trumpet and a chuggy powerpop rhythm. There are also heavier songs here such as Blood Beach, rock 'n' roll with a raw throaty guitar sound and lyrics straight out of a trashy horror B-movie. Basically this album is all about pop with oomph, and has jangle and strong tunes as well as a rock 'n' roll spirit.

Jim Basnight's Recovery Room was released by Precedent Records in 2004 and continues his eclectic journey across the pop-rock spectrum. Fans of his powerpop output won't be disappointed by songs like Miss America, Look Inside, or on the heavier side of the genre, Ripple in the Bag. Elsewhere, the album runs the gamut from richly orchestrated, vintage soul-informed songs like The Heart to the riotous rock 'n' roll of Python Boogaloo. Brother Louie is a soulful melding of smoky late-night jazz trumpet, sophisticated orchestration and wild rock guitar; Riding Rainbows is off-kilter psych-pop in which a bouncy tune masks lyrics about insanity; and Swoon is gentle acoustic pop with effective use of trumpet and wonderfully liquid flute.

The most recent of these back catalogue albums is 2012's Introducing Jim Basnight. There's a massive 21 tracks here, spanning rock 'n' roll, melodic rock, powerpop and beyond. Sea of Blue combines gentle folky janglepop with a rock 'n' roll kick. Pop Shooter has the classic driving powerpop sound. Livin' a Lie is US folk seasoned with effectively atmospheric use of violin and muted trumpet. White Socks has laugh-out-loud funny lyrics about crimes against fashion, set to a 1950s-influenced rock 'n' roll arrangement. Promises is 1980s-ish melodic rock with strong riffage and a harmony-laden chorus. In Love With You is cheery 60s-style pop that nods towards early Beatles.

Find out more at www.jimbasnightmusic.com


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