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Album review: Bushpigs

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[Massive Rodent Records]

Regular Northampton gig-goers will recognise Bushpigs as the ultimate party band. Most weekends you’ll find them at weddings, birthdays and bar mitzvah’s playing classic covers with a smattering of original tunes. But between 1994 and 2001 the band recorded a substantial amount of music which, rather criminally, had remained unreleased. Finally the cream of those songs are collected here on their 11-track, debut Bushpigs album.

This album features recordings from the bands original line-up: Tony Riseley, Steve Goddard, Dave Briggs and Keiran McLaughlin, plus their current incarnation which finds Tony and Steve joined by Steve Briggs and Duncan Bisatt. The first thing to note on spinning this album is how well the tracks hang together, despite the intervening years and shifting personnel. The riff that kicks off opening cut ‘Face’ is a thing of beauty and has a circular motif that recalls ‘Eton Rifles’ or ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’. Perhaps attesting to its age the recording is slightly flawed; the drums sound empty and hollow, and the overall feel is of a good quality demo. On the plus side it’s raw energy perfectly captures the excitement of Bushpigs in the live environment.

Another groovy riff heralds ‘Indian Song’ which skips like a stone across water, while the addition of synths adds deep, rich textures. Capturing the edgier end of the 1980s (think Orange Juice, or Dub Sex) the track races towards a swirling vortex with cries of “Hare Krishna” and shades of neo-psychedelia. On an album of many facets ‘Sometimes’ has a Merseybeat vibe with a stop/start riff that recalls The Beatles ‘Taxman’ while some sultry saxophone adds a Roxy Music flavour. It’s a combination that works rather well. Gothic inflections, meanwhile, juxtapose a bright, breezy chorus for an interesting tension of opposites on ‘Honest Man’.

The ethereal ‘Vegas’ is the perfect driving song, and evokes images of road trips across desert plains, especially when the guitars are set loose for some bluesy soloing. In another shift of gears the snappy and angular ‘X-Ray Eyes’ has some choice samples, reminiscent of Big Audio Dynamite, while the skating synth brings to mind Phantasmagoria-era Damned. ‘Nervous Breakdown’ arrives with all guitars blazing, before ‘Sweet Thang’ takes a more funky turn. Raunchy rock n’ roll doesn’t get more visceral, or vital, than ‘Little By Little’, a track that simply smoulders with sensuality. However the Bushpigs aren’t all testosterone-fuelled ballsy rock: two ballads intersperse the more raucous numbers ensuring Bushpigs ebbs and flows evenly. Cloudbursts and keys that fall like rain permeate ‘Daylight’s Almost Gone’, whilst ‘Reach Out For The Light’ ends the album on a rather wistful, ominous tone.

The wealth of experience that each individual member brings to the constituent whole means a Bushpigs album wasn’t going to be anything but solid. If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing them live, Bushpigs let’s you know what all the fuss is about.

Peter Dennis

Bushpigs is out now on all digital platforms. Physical formats will follow after covid-19

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