London-based three-piece The Bishops have the ratherenviable distinction that their eponymously titled debut album sharesa producer and studio with The Whites Stripes’ magnum opusElephant – the famously analogue-obsessed Liam Watson at Toe RagStudios in Hackney.
Any similarity between the two bands ends there, however. Where theDetroit band used a deliberately luddite approach to make somethingthat sounded both age-old and thrillingly new, The Bishops have simplyproduced something startlingly unoriginal, unimaginative and more thana little hackneyed.
The band, led by two nattily attired twin brothers, seem sodetermined to use the dusty equipment to revive the halcyon days ofthe mid 1960s that they forget almost everything that has happenedover the past 40 years. And while they do it much more effectivelythan Britpop revisionists like Ocean Colour Scene, youconsistently find yourself wondering what the point of the exercise is– yes, there are short, sharp, melodic pop songs here sung in thestyle of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and TheKinks, but where are the ideas?
Lead single The Only Place I Can Look Is Down is so by the numbersyou could plot a graph to it. I Can’t Stand it Anymore is an instantlyforgettable slice of sub-Zutons skank, and even when the bandreally hits top gear, on the warm and fuzzy So High, it is impossiblenot to mentally root through a copy of Now That’s What I Call The1960s! to see which band they’ve cribbed notes from. It is supremelyironic that the band The Bishops seem to hold in such high regard werethe great musical innovators of the century, constantly challengingthe now-antiquated equipment rather than producing identikit, down theline pop numbers.
This is by no means a terrible record. The band can at timesmasterfully recreate some of their influences – most notably on therollicking opening track Menace About Town, which perfectly channelsthe spirit of Lennon and McCartney, and Life in Hole, which nicks thetune almost wholesale from I Saw Her Standing There.
In fact, thereisn’t really a bad song on the record – every track has a distinctmelody, a catchy guitar hook and some nice harmonizing between thebrothers. There just isn’t anything new here – no slices of theinventiveness that so typified The Beatles’ later years, and none ofthe cheeky insolence and reptilian sexiness that The Rolling Stonesused to seduce half the country’s womenfolk.
Perhaps it is a little churlish to compare them so unfavourably tosome of the greatest acts of all time. If The Bishops’ albumhad been released in 1966, the band may very well have stolenthe spotlight from their Liverpudlian heroes, and who knows how thenext half-century would have panned out? However, in the cold, hardlight of 2007, The Bishops may need to fast-track themselves up to SgtPepper’s originality before they can take their first tentative stepsinto this millennium.