Album Reviews

The Dragons – BFI

(Ninja Tune) UK release date: 27 August 2007

You may say BFI is dated proto-prog, a forgotten ’60s demo tape dusted off and thrown to the nu-rave lions of the psychedelic Noughties. I say bear in mind that Daryl Dragon, one third of the trio of brothers behind this little nugget, was also one half of Captain and Tenille.

If a certain Macclesfield miserabilist hadn’t decided to send up Captain and Tenille’s dopey pop tune Love Will Keep Us Together to within an inch of its life, the greatest song of all time would never have existed. Therefore, we owe Daryl, Doug and Dennis Dragon. We owe them big time.

When the definitive history of rock’n’roll is written, there are those who will be held up as saviours of youth culture and life as we know it, and those who will fall by the wayside. Sometimes though, it’s not so much the individual snippets that are important but the links and padding between them.

Dragons’ BFI is one of those bits of ballast. Yes, yes, it’s a discarded demo recorded in the late ’60s by three brothers who never quite made it, and who abandoned it along with their own musical ambitions to gig with The Beach Boys backing band before Daryl hooked up with Toni Tenille.

Yes, yes, it sounds just like you’d expect it to – hugely dated and impossibly minimalist compared to what bands like Lemon Jelly and The Orb have since done with its legacy, better production values and a bit of ambition. Lounge ambient, anyone?

But at the same time it has an irresistible charm. Part of this is the myth around how it came into being: originally laid down in the late 60s by a mate of the Dragon brothers in his spare time, the demo came to nothing more than a single track – Food For My Soul – contributed to a surf movie soundtrack, Sea For Yourself.

This turned up on a 500-run private pressing bought 37 years later by Strictly Kev of DJ Food, who tracked down the band only to discover they still had all the masters of their unreleased album. The rest as they say, is history.

BFI (Blue Forces Intelligence, if you were wondering) is a time-capsule of ’60s space rock, psychedelic noodling, moog bothering, Asian influences and oddity. At times it sounds like an Austin Powers soundtrack, a parody of the era to which it belongs. At others it sounds like genius, decades ahead of its time and easily able to hold its own today.

Tracks like Cosmosis, Amplified Emotions and Sunset Scenery sound exactly as they’re meant to, soaked in trippy West Coast surf sun. Mercy Call is fragile and swirling, descending somewhere into madness halfway through in the way only songs of a certain period can.

Close your eyes, let yourself sway with the hypnotic organ riffs, and you could be back in the summer of love, flowers in your hair and the grass beneath your feet, watching it all at the birth of hippiedom. Produced honestly, with no attempt to modernise the sound, the music swims into your head and reminds you of a time before poodle perms and 17-minute bass solos would ruin it all.

And never forget: if this hadn’t been shelved at the time, if the Dragon brothers had had their 15 minutes of fame, there may never have been Love Will Tear Us Apart. For that alone, hug this album to your breast and never, ever let it go.

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The Dragons – BFI