London-based three-piece The Bishops have the rather enviable distinction that their eponymously titled debut album shares a producer and studio with The Whites Stripes‘ magnum opus Elephant – the famously analogue-obsessed Liam Watson at Toe Rag Studios in Hackney.
Any similarity between the two bands ends there, however. Where the Detroit band used a deliberately luddite approach to make something that sounded both age-old and thrillingly new, The Bishops have simply produced something startlingly unoriginal, unimaginative and more than a little hackneyed.
The band, led by two nattily attired twin brothers, seem so determined to use the dusty equipment to revive the halcyon days of the mid 1960s that they forget almost everything that has happened over the past 40 years. And while they do it much more effectively than Britpop revisionists like Ocean Colour Scene, you consistently find yourself wondering what the point of the exercise is– yes, there are short, sharp, melodic pop songs here sung in the style of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Kinks, but where are the ideas?
Lead single The Only Place I Can Look Is Down is so by the numbers you could plot a graph to it. I Can’t Stand it Anymore is an instantly forgettable slice of sub-Zutons skank, and even when the band really hits top gear, on the warm and fuzzy So High, it is impossible not to mentally root through a copy of Now That’s What I Call The 1960s! to see which band they’ve cribbed notes from. It is supremely ironic that the band The Bishops seem to hold in such high regard were the great musical innovators of the century, constantly challenging the now-antiquated equipment rather than producing identikit, down the line pop numbers.
This is by no means a terrible record. The band can at times masterfully recreate some of their influences – most notably on the rollicking opening track Menace About Town, which perfectly channels the spirit of Lennon and McCartney, and Life in Hole, which nicks the tune almost wholesale from I Saw Her Standing There.
In fact, there isn’t really a bad song on the record – every track has a distinct melody, a catchy guitar hook and some nice harmonising between the brothers. There just isn’t anything new here – no slices of the inventiveness that so typified The Beatles’ later years, and none of the cheeky insolence and reptilian sexiness that The Rolling Stones used to seduce half the country’s womenfolk.
Perhaps it is a little churlish to compare them so unfavourably to some of the greatest acts of all time. If The Bishops’ album had been released in 1966, the band may very well have stolen the spotlight from their Liverpudlian heroes, and who knows how the next half-century would have panned out? However, in the cold, hard light of 2007, The Bishops may need to fast-track themselves up to Sgt Pepper’s originality before they can take their first tentative steps into this millennium.