Back to the Bus is a lot like the film Almost Famous, where a somewhat naive 15-year-old travels on a tour bus with an up and coming band, meeting lots of the stars of the time along the way. The album takes a sometimes bewildering but always exciting tour of some of the most influential bands and songs of the last few decades, ending with a quick song from The Paddingtons themselves.
It works for many reasons. First and foremost is the vast range of the music. It comes from different decades, with efforts from the legendary The Clash to The Libertines (and any inclusion of The Libertines in an album will always curry favour with me). Not only is it cross-temporal, but it also crosses genre boundaries.
There are classics of punk and more contemporary rock alongside the more ‘cultural’ classic that is Hawaii Five-O from The Ventures. The choice of mostly well known and well respected bands guarantees a positive and, for most, nostalgic experience (even younger listeners will be able to remember the feeling of excitement inspired by The Libertine’s first album). There is almost literally something here for everyone.
It’s difficult to pick which songs are stand-out. Lots of them are really. Graham Coxon is good, as are The Clash, though that is not a surprise. Horrorshow is obviously brilliant, and adds a dose of chaotic energy that while not lacking is certainly advantageous.
The only problem track has to be Hawaii Five-O. While it is a humorous surprise on first listen, it rapidly becomes one of those tracks that is skipped on most occasions, and I can’t really say it sits well with the other songs. Otherwise, everything is well worth a listen; there’s really no bad here.
I think the best use for this album would be as an introduction. I say give it to anyone with a taste for dance music and let them be sucked into a world of creativity and energy, hopefully renouncing their past sins. It would also be perfect for anyone who likes contemporary ‘indie’ music, as a taster of some of the heritage of that genre.
Back to the Bus is not always a smooth ride, but it’s definitely worth adding to your music collection, if only to remind you how good some of these bands really are. If it makes one person go buy a Clash CD or nip to an indie gig (hair suitably straightened), then I say it has done its job. Also, did I mention that The Libertines feature on this album? They do. They’re really good.