Artist: The Fred Bison Five
Catalogue Number: WOO19
Year of Release: 1992
A1 Girl Guitar (2:01)
A2 I'm On Edge (2:58)
A3 Psychedelic Garden Pt. 1 (3:41)
A4 Psychedelic Garden Pt. 2 (4:29)
A5 Tell Me Something (2:04)
A6 Quagmirehead Pt. 1 (0:48)
A7 Here To Cry (5:58)
B1 Be Ready (1:27)
B2 Down Time (3:19)
B3 Fried Slice (2:49)
B4 Quagmirehead Pt. 2 (0:16)
B5 Confused (1:33)
B6 Theme From 'Action Inc.' (2:44)
B7 The Prowler (3:18)
B8 Quagmirehead Pt. 3 (0:28)
B9 Blowin' Smoke (9:27)
from Record Collector Nr. 174, Feb. 1994:
What's the story behind the mysterious Fred Bison Five LP on Woronzow?
"When Reckless were so unenthusiastic about "London Stone", I started worrying about it myself, for the first time ever. I listen to it over and over, thinking, "What's wrong with it?" I came to the conclusion that it didn't have enough jokes on it. It was a bit too miserable. So I thought, "I know what, I'll have fun". I'd always wanted to do a beat group EP, and I decided to do one as a freebie for the next LP, so that everyone would know I was still quite wacky. But over one weekend of recording, it turned into an album. I played it to some friends, and they said I shouldn't give it away, I should sell it!"
So that's the back-story to this album, which is a worthy addition to any Bevis fans' collection, and perhaps even any fan of the beat-scene he's homage-ing with this album, although I don't feel qualified to say, this being the sole example of this style of music in my entire record collection.
There's no doubting the fun had with the project though - Nick Saloman gives himself three pseudonyms to play the different members of the band, dressing up differently for each one (Ray Dean, Graham Mills-Wainwright and Fred Bison), and invents a female member of the band, Candice Hostettler, who is credited with drums, cello and even the writing of Here to Cry. I assume he even wrote his own sleevenotes (click on the picture above to enlarge), describing the different 'characters' in the band, as a fifth persona Tony Tumulus, "publicist".
And it wouldn't be putting the record down at all to say that it sounds like it was recorded in a weekend - a lot of the music made in the era he's recreating here would have taken much less time to do. I mean, this isn't a Spiritualized album we're talking about - where you go from spending 18 months mixing the Electric Mainline album so that it's a different album in the left channel, right channel, and when listened to in stereo - to spending three weeks making Amazing Grace and wondering why you're losing fans faster than EMI can cut jobs. This is meant to be rough and ready.
Having said that, I think the vocals of the Fred Bison character are a bit too heavy. They sit on top of the backing tracks rather than working with them, and the put-on deeper voice he uses for Fred does begin to get a bit same-y after a time. However, the album is well-paced with instrumentals and the aforementioned Here to Cry, a gentle, Bevis-like ballad sung in the manner of This Corner of England. You probably only really notice the heavy vocals if you listened to it three times in a row to review it, and I dare say most other people won't.
Highlights for me are the instrumentals Psychedelic Garden Pt 2, the Quagmireheads, which I wish were all longer, Fried Slice's organ-heavy stomp, and Theme From 'Action Inc'. Of the vocal numbers, the long wig-out Blowin' Smoke reminded me of the wonderful and criminally short-lived band The Stairs, especially their genius longer-numbers Fall Down The Rain and Right in the Back of Your Mind, and Down Time, if only because I once had a late night radio show of the same name.
Mervy man, real mervy.