Love On A Budget is an apt title for Bandini’s debut album, as the cost was reputedly a grand total of �80, “including Scotch eggs, cigarettes and ale”. And although the idea was to end up with a “scruffy” sound, in fact the album is full of rather gorgeous music – even grand in I Am Full Of Hate, the extraordinary closing track.
Warped, spaced-out electronica tend to give way to seriously melodic ditties, with hard-edged and black humour-filled lyrics to prevent any descent into cuteness. Take opener Breakfast In Bed: “Why are you crying? / it won’t make amends / you can cry me an ocean / I hope you get the bends…”. The inspiration is allegedly John Fante, the American novelist so beloved of Anthony Reynolds, but the influence isn’t immediately obvious – this is a very English album.
Simon Phipps (Jack, Jacques, Unit, Mougene) and Nick Reavill (Gigantomachy, The Great Uncle Tonies) worked together in Hal & Roger but it wasn’t until 2003 that they were both free again to work on a notebook of ideas dreamed up by Phipps while in Australia, “the spawn of a Byron Bay vista and a large pocket full of home-grown.”
The final result is a gentle sound, a bit of Coldplay crossed with some of the quirkier bits of early Divine Comedy. Phipps voice in particular is very similar to Chris Martin’s, and while lovely piano intro to The Distance To Fall could grace many a Neil Hannon song the main body of song wouldn’t be out of place on Parachutes.
Flying Solo is one of the standout tracks: melancholy and wistful, as so many of these songs are. “I’m in trouble / you’re holding all the cards / I’ll fight this battle, but I won’t take things to heart / just feed me answers / where did you go? / like why I’m flying solo this far from home?
Great Grey Season is lighter, poppier, with a summery sound and more memorable lines – “He didn’t live to build his folly so she dried her eyes and bought a collie…” A very clever song – and I especially like the confident timing… “I stopped my subscriptions to worthy causes, now my speech is filled with… ominous pauses”.
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder / long absence makes the heart go wander…” is the cheery chorus to Holding On For Sunday, another track that on first hearing seems like a bit of froth (with chirpy electronic warbles) but as you get to know it makes you think rather more.
That really sums up this album. Delightful to listen to from the start, the more you listen the more you hear. This is song-writing of a high order, and who needs fancy producers and recording studios when music of this calibre can be produced in a second floor room in Camden High Street? I hope no-one lets Nigel Godrich anywhere near these two.
One thing does puzzle me, though. Bandini style themselves “electro-Bacharach merchants”. Now I know Bacharach is regarded as a God in some circles, but he doesn’t do it for me – too sugary. Bandini is much more interesting.