Artist: The Bevis Frond
Title: Any Gas Faster
Catalogue Number: RECK18
Year of Release: 1990
A1 Lord Plentiful Reflects (3:39)
A2 Rejection Day (A.M.) (3:01)
A3 Ear Song (3:47)
A4 This Corner of England (2:58)
A5 Legendary (4:33)
A6 Then You Wanted Me (3:35)
A7 Lost Rivers (1:36)
A8 Somewhere Else (3:07)
B1 These Dark Days (5:28)
B2 Head on a Pole (3:19)
B3 Your Mind's Gone Grey (4:20)
B4 Old Sea Dog (2:37)
B5 Rejection Day (P.M.) (3:05)
B6 Good Old Fashioned Pain (2:59)
B7 Olde Worlde (5:47)
The first thing you'll notice about Any Gas Faster, compared to previous albums, is the sheer number of songs on there. Proper songs. No 19-minute jams to be seen. Nothing over the six minute mark in fact. OK, Lost Rivers is an instrumental, but it's also the shortest track, so you can just ignore it.
Luckily, Bevis hasn't thrown his psychedelic baby out with the sandalwood-infused bathwater. The whimsical trademarks of the early albums - random TV samples, lyrical playfulness, the sense of not compromising on his own music - they are all still there. If anything, the essence of Bevis Frond comes into sharper focus on this release; the first to be recorded in a 'proper' studio.
The benefits of professional recording are clear from the outset. The vocals are clear and well-balanced compared to the backing, the guitar is more restrained, and there is just one main guitar line instead of three or four. The drums are noticeably better too, thanks to bringing in Martin Crowley (he's the guy with the shades in the photos above) rather than playing absolutely everything himself.
Any Gas Faster is principally a British Rock album, but one belonging more to the 60s than the 90s. It's stylistic variations only really cover the spectrum from blues to psychedelic folk, crossing over into the heavier end of rock in the process.
Notable tracks are the two-part Reflection Day, the bluesiest number by far, each time is crops up have that slowed-down-for-emphasis ending that blues artists often use to finish live songs. Ear Song makes good use of Bevis' weary-sounding vocal to lament generational divides. But the stand out track by far from Side A is This Corner of England. An acoustic ballad about a relationship that one party thought was going well (the part Bevis plays) and the other half clearly not, "breaking her vows at the very last minute/and turning her back on this corner of England". I've always like the final verse, so will quote it in full:
Stone cold sheets of semen stained linen
I sleep out the night in the chill of my terminal dream
And I bury my pain in this pillow
That burns up my head with the smell of her vanishing cream
Look over the rooftops
Above, beyond the distant horizon
And there through mists of confusion
She dances till morning
With never a thought for this corner of England
There then follows a short sitar solo. Arch social commentary as well? Possibly. but a song worthy of a British Bright Eyes, in my opinion.
After this track though, you start to notice an element of bitterness in the lyrics. A number of songs are about being used, left behind, and ignored (Lord Plentiful, Rejection Day, Legendary, Then You Wanted Me, Head on a Pole). Or, they are complaints (Ear Song, These Dark Day, Olde Worlde, Your Mind's Gone Grey). The exceptions are refreshing by comparison. Not better or worse as songs, but the difference in tone is marked. Old Sea Dog is a reminiscence about some yarn-spinning grandfather type figure, which has a classic Bevis mythical to mundane lyric going from tales of "Mr Mojo's crystal ship" to casting off in a gravy boat. good Old Fashioned Pain has a similar couplet:
Do you see your cerebellum as a light bulb or a cog
I saw mine as gristle, so I fed it to the dog
And you also notice quite how restrained Bevis has been with his guitars on this album, and you want him to let go and have a bit more fun playing with himself like he used to (thesis about the masturbatory nature of all solo-electric guitar playing to follow). Finally, he gets release at the end of Olde Worlde. Depsite being another complaint song, this time about (I think) death's inevitability and his failure to keep up with the new world (Newe Worlde?), the scorching dual, indeed duelling, guitars that finish the track are a tremendous way to bring the album to a close.
A good introduction to The Bevis Frond as songwriter, but next up is New River Head - generally acknowledged as the best album of his early career.