album list

Bible of the Devil
Big Boss Man
Big Tent Revival
Birds & Buildings
Bitchin Bajas
Black Angels
Black Light White Light
Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band
Mike Bloom
Blue Giant
Blue Seeds
Nicki Bluhm & the Gamblers
Phillip Boa & the Voodooclub
Robbert Bobbert & the Bubble Machine
Benjamin Booker
Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles

Bible of the Devil  (US)

Bible of the Devil, 'Tight Empire'

Tight Empire  (2004,  47.44)  ***½

Shit to Pimp
Ball Deep, Mountain High
Kicking Birth
Sexual Dry Gulch
Fuckin' A
Iron University
Born in Jail

Current availability:

The superbly-named Bible of the Devil tread the fine line between garage rock and balls-out metal, ending up sounding like early AC/DC crossed with something even dirtier, with a side-helping of Thin Lizzy twin guitar. On their second album, 2003's Tight Empire, vocalist/guitarist Mark Hoffman has his Bon Scott impression down pat, screeching incomprehensible-yet-clearly-filthy lyrics to songs called things like Shit To Pimp, Ball Deep, Mountain High and Sexual Dry Gulch, although my personal favourite veers between Fuckin' A and Born in Jail, although, thinking about it, Iron University's pretty cool, too... The music? Sub-AC/DC, but there's worse things to be.

Somebody calling themselves Iowa Blackie allegedly plays Mellotron, but the squawking strings on Kicking Birth sound little like a real one. If you're after yet another (minor) variant on kick-ass rock'n'roll, you could do an awful lot worse than pick up a copy of Tight Empire, though you won't want to bother for the Mellotron.

Official site

Big Big Train  (UK)  see:

Big Big Train

Big Boss Man  (UK)

Big Boss Man, 'Winner'

Winner  (2005,  46.56)  ***

Kelvin Stardust
Fall in Fall Out
Complicated Lady
Tu as Gaché Mon Talent Ma Chérie
Reach Out
Oh My Gawd!
Fever Special
Everybody Boogaloo
Jackson 16
The Hawk
Got it So Bad
Big Boss Man, 'Last Man on Earth'

Last Man on Earth  (2014,  46.11)  ***

Theme From Last Man on Earth
Blow Your Own
Last Man on Earth
Hail Caesar
Changing Faces
Bombay Mix
Crimson 6T's
The Bear
Project No.6
Le Dernier Homme sur Terre
Shot Down
Trans Adonis
Painted Rainbow

Current availability:

Big Boss Man apparently formed after randomly meeting on a ferry (as you do); given that two members were the boat's house band, it's hardly surprising that a broad 'lounge' streak runs through their music. Their second album, 2005's Winner, opens with a pretty cool soul/funk instrumental, the amusingly-titled Kelvin Stardust, several other tracks mining a similar lounge/Latin vein, although the vocal tracks tend to let it down a little, largely due to organist Nasser Bouzida's frankly rather weak voice. Best tracks? Kelvin Stardust, Everybody Boogaloo and closer Deception, although pretty much any of the instrumentals are worth hearing. Morgan Nicholls and Bouzida supposedly play Mellotron, with a murky harmony cello part on Fall In Fall Out (which cops a riff from Status Quo's early hit Pictures Of Matchstick Men) and a flute line (that runs a full three semitones below the instrument's range)) on Tu As Gaché Mon Talent Ma Chérie from the pair, flute chords and melody on B.O.O.G.A.L.O.O. from Nicholls and vibes on Jackson 16 from Bouzida. The album's best features, though, are Bouzida's Hammond work and the overall vibe, rather than its fairly minor samplotron use. Take a copy to the next '60s mod night at your local dance emporium.

2014's Last Man on Earth carries on the good work, in what I'm guessing is a kind of vague concept work, featuring several vocal tracks (male and female) from guest artistes. The whole is, once again, a record that almost defines the term 'groovy', chock-full of '60s Hammond riffs and references. Best tracks? I liked the extremely brief, Eastern-ish Bombay Mix, while The Bear does something particularly good with their influences, at least to my ears. Mellotron? Bouzida's credit counts for even less than last time round, I'd say. What's it even meant to be? Surely not the female voices on Blow Your Own? The strings on Changing Faces are closer, but no cigar. Cellos on Painted Rainbow? Anyway, a decent album, but no Mellotron.

Official site

Big Tent Revival  (US)

Big Tent Revival, 'Amplifier'

Amplifier  (1998,  65.20)  **½

Still Breathing
Lovely Mausoleum
God Made Heaven
Someday (Time and Space)
Star in the Book of Life
Wouldn't it Be Cool
Psalm 72
What Would Jesus Do?
Ready, Steady, Go
Real Thing
West Memphis Lawyer
Come on People

Current availability:

Unsurprisingly, given their name, Big Tent Revival are a Christian rock band, so at least we're not talking generic CCM, although it's still pretty irritating stuff. Musically, it falls into a vague Tom Petty/Bruce Springsteen area, were those artists given to singing brain-mush about how much they love their lord (sorry, Lord), etc. And what the hell's going on with the ten minute-plus Thanks, which appears to be the album's credits, spoken by the band. Er, y'wot? CD inserts for the illiterate? Good of them to cater for their core audience I suppose...

David Alan's credited with various elderly keyboards, including Mellotron, although I have to say, the strings on Lovely Mausoleum sound Mellotronic, but are played far too fast and outside the Mellotron's range, although the ones on God Made Heaven sound a little more authentic. Strings on several other tracks and flutes on the Christian mantra (ho ho) What Would Jesus Do? (aargh!), but I'm pretty sure it's samples across the board, although I've been wrong before. So; Christian rock that doesn't even appear to feature a real Mellotron. Just don't.

Official site

Bilal  (US)

Bilal, 'In Another Life'

In Another Life  (2015,  39.15)  **½

Sirens II
Star Now
Open Up the Door
I Really Don't Care
Pleasure Toy
Money Over Love
Love Child
Holding it Back
Bury Me Next to You

Current availability:

Bilal (Sayeed Oliver) is apparently a 'neo soul' singer, which, going by his fourth album, 2015's In Another Life, consists of using '70s soul vocal tropes over modern programmed rhythms and samples. You might be able to guess that I'm not going to like this, and you'd be right. It's not all painful, mind; Lunatic sounds not unlike Adrian Younge, which figures, given that he plays a wide range of instruments on the album, although, funnily enough, not the 'Mellotron'.

Ali Shaheed Muhammad is credited with Mellotron, but it's very obvious sampled, with improbable pitchbends and way-over-eight-second string notes proliferating, particularly on opener Sirens II. Mind you, if the flutes that open Love Child were the only time anything Mellotronic cropped up, I might just be fooled, but then, the flutes always sampled well.

Official site

Binário  (Brazil)

Binário, 'Binário'

Binário  (2008,  55.09)  **½

Amor Liquido
Tarde Demais
Experimental (Catnip)
E ai Galera Voitei

Current availability:

Brazil's Binário combine Tropicalia, post-rock, jazz, electro and various other styles into an unusual and sometimes (but far from always) danceable mixture of Latin and European musics. Their eponymous 2008 debut is rather overlong, but works well enough in its field, assuming, of course, their field is yours, too...

Producer David Brinkworth is credited with Mellotron, with a flute line on Experimental (Catnip), however... Given that the album was recorded in Brazil, not a country known for its Mellotron surplus and that Brinkworth has already used samples with Harmonic 33, I think it's safe to assume that it's fake. So; good at what it does, but personally, I'll be happy never to listen to this again.


Birds & Buildings  (US)

Birds & Buildings, 'Bantam to Behemoth'

Bantam to Behemoth  (2008,  69.25)  ****

Birds Flying Into Buildings
Terra Fire
Caution Congregates and Forms a Storm
Chronicle of the Invisible River of Stone
Yucatan 65: The Agitation of the Mass
Chakra Khan
Sunken City, Sunny Day

Current availability:

Birds & Buildings are a Deluge Grander side-project, featuring their Dan Britton on keys/guitar/vocals and Brett d'Anon on bass and guitar. Their sole album to date, 2008's Bantam to Behemoth, has much in common with the parent band, being in the more (relatively) experimental area of current progressive, as against the neo-neo- (you guessed it: a poor copy of a frequently poor copy) or metal/metal-ish fields, both oversubscribed (particularly the latter) and both stuffed with third-rate drivel. Despite being rather overlong, the album keeps things interesting with its offbeat approach, although Brian Falkowski's sax on several tracks won't be to everyone's taste, ditto the occasional, unnecessary vocal interjections. Best tracks? Probably the opening title track and Caution Congregates And Forms A Storm, although I'm less convinced by the punning title and Canterburyisms of Chakra Khan.

Britton adds samplotron strings, choirs and/or flutes to most tracks, some parts sounding more authentic than others. Overall, then, a fine album, although losing the odd ten-minute epic might've actually tightened the release up a little. Incidentally, a very public apology to Dan; he sent me this CD three years ago, making this a rather belated review. I know it's important to bands to have several online reviews of their new album, not their three year-old one. Sorry, Dan.


See: Deluge Grander | All Over Everything

Bitchin Bajas  (US)

, 'Krausened'

Krausened  (2013,  34.28)  **½


Current availability:

Bitchin Bajas are essentially Cooper Crane from Chicago psych outfit Cave, whose 2013 release, Krausened, although generally referred to as an EP, is actually short LP length, following three full-lengthers. Its electronica sounds like a heavily updated take on the 'Berlin School' template to my ears, indie and trance influences thrown into the pot in an attempt to disguise its origins.

Either Crane or Dan Quinlivan play pseudo-Mellotron flutes on the title track, with almost random melody lines popping up here and there. The samples actually barely sound like a Mellotron, but are played in 'the style of', so this just about makes it in here. I wasn't blown away by this, but you may be.

Official site

Black  (UK)

Black, 'Water on Stone'

Water on Stone  (2009,  33.42)  ***

Tonight We Cross the River
Walk on Frozen Water
Tomorrow is Another Night
I Hate You (Don't Leave)
Stormy Waters
What Makes a Fool
Grievous Angel
Black, 'Agnes' Prayer' MP3  (2009)  ***

Agnes' Prayer

Current availability:

I thought Black (a.k.a. Colin Vearncombe) rang a faint bell... He had his fifteen minutes in the late '80s, so all power to him for continuing to write, record and tour over twenty years later. 2009's Water on Stone is a gentle singer-songwriter type of record, all '80s influences thankfully left where they belong (duh: in the '80s), better tracks including haunting opener Tonight We Cross The River, What Makes A Fool and Grievous Angel, the more upbeat tracks working less well, at least to my ears. Given the album's brevity, I'm not sure why the download-only Agnes' Prayer wasn't included; a gentle, Americana-influenced effort, it could do very well indeed with a slightly older audience, were they to actually hear it.

Although one Andy Patterson is credited with Mellotron on both the album and the download, I'd be quite surprised to discover that the vague, background strings and/or choir on a couple of tracks had any connection with a real machine. I don't know whether fans of Vearncombe's earlier work will like this or not, but listeners attuned to a more 'timeless' take on the singer-songwriter style should possibly give this a go.

Official site

Black Angels  (US)

Black Angels, 'Phosgene Nightmare'

Phosgene Nightmare  (2011,  25.27)  **½

Melanie's Melody
The Boat Song
At Night
Choose to Choose
Entrance Song (Rain Dance Version)
Black Angels, 'Indigo Meadow'

Indigo Meadow  (2013,  45.49)  **½

Indigo Meadow
Evil Things
Don't Play With Guns
The Day
Love Me Forever
Always Maybe
War on Holiday
Broken Soldier
I Hear Colors (Chromaesthesia)
Twisted Light
You're Mine
Black Isn't Black

Current availability:

Unsurprisingly, Black Angels are clearly in thrall to The Velvet Underground, although thankfully not in the usual eighth-hand indie manner; this lot have actually gone back to their source material. 2011's vinyl-only Phosgene Nightmare EP (after 2010's Phosgene Dream album) was released for 'Record Store Day 2011', an initially good idea that (surprise surprise) has been co-opted by the leeches of the music biz and eBay whores; it's supposedly a collection of b-sides, but I can't actually trace any of its contents to anywhere else. They channel Lou and friends with aplomb: opener Melanie's Melody perfectly captures those few months just before psychedelia hit, Ronettes is Be My Baby reinvented as a funeral dirge as played by the Velvets battling it out with The Byrds, while Entrance Song (Rain Dance Version) is early psych squeezed through Phil Spector's tortured worldview. The Boat Song features cello and high-end string parts that sound a lot like a Mellotron, without sounding fully like one; is this M-Tron/Memotron/whatever? The sounds work well in context, but it doesn't seem that likely that the band actually sourced a real machine for the recording. Go on, prove me wrong.

2013's Indigo Meadow throws the band's following a curveball by shifting a few years forward and aping The Doors instead, not least vocalist Alex Maas' on/off spot-on Jimbo impression. I can't honestly say that the songs did very much for this reviewer; perhaps I prefer my psych a little more, y'know, psychedelic? The album manages a site 'first' by actually crediting Manetron, which, I'm reliably informed, is a Mellotron sample app for the iPhone, although they don't overuse it, the only obvious usage being some murky flutes on Holland and slightly more audible strings on War On Holiday.

You're not going to find a physical copy of Phosgene Nightmare at all easily, so the 'sample use' point may be rather academic, Indigo Meadow being the precise opposite on both counts.

Official site

Black Light White Light  (Denmark)

Black Light White Light, 'Gold Into Dreams'

Gold Into Dreams  (2014,  57.44)  **½

High Like a Hurricane
Sex and Fury
Gold Into Dreams
Aim a Little Higher
Revolutionary Sound Squad
Song for Astrid
We See the Light
And the Devil
Fade Out

Current availability:

Black Light White Light's second album, 214's Gold Into Dreams, supposedly sits somewhere between shoegaze and psychedelia, which suggests to me that no-one's hearing the album's Britpop hangover vibe, particularly noticeable on Revolutionary Sound Squad and Song For Astrid. In fairness, the woozy Gold Into Dreams and We See The Light fit the original description like a glove, while And The Devil combines their influences into possibly the most pleasing thing here. The longer tracks rather outstay their welcome, though; worst offender: the ten-minute Running.

Chris "Frenchie" Smith is credited with Mellotron, but the loosely Mellotronic strings on Hide and closer Fade Out fail to convince (those on And The Devil are real), while the string-ish sound on Operators and elsewhere is a definite non. Hmmm. This one can only aspire to become a curate's egg; very few parts of it are genuinely good, I fear.

Official site

Blackfield  (Israel/UK)

Blackfield, 'Blackfield'

Blackfield  (2004,  36.59/47.40)  ****

Open Mind
Cloudy Now
The Hole in Me
[bonus disc adds:
Perfect World
Where is My Love?
Cloudy Now (live)]

Current availability:

Blackfield is a collaboration between Israeli musician Aviv Geffen and Porcupine Tree's inimitable Steven Wilson and, rather unsurprisingly, sounds a lot like the 'Porkies', as they're often appallingly known. The songwriting is of the type that grows on you with familiarity, while the sound is towards the darker end of the Porcupine Tree spectrum, without the metal edge they've developed over their last couple of releases. It's difficult to pick standout tracks on only a listen or two, but, basically, everything sounds good, in a melancholy singer-songwriterish kind of way, with plenty of Steven Wilson touches.

With real strings on several tracks, it's difficult to spot the sampled Mellotron, although there's a high, warbly string line on Glow that's a definite, as are the flutes throughout The Hole In Me. So; a very good album indeed that's bound to be a 'grower', although pretty low on the fake 'Tron front, along with most Porcupine Tree efforts. Buy anyway.

Official site

See: Steven Wilson | Aviv Geffen | Porcupine Tree

Blackmail  (Germany)

Blackmail, 'Science Fiction'

Science Fiction  (1999,  49.33)  **

Feeble Bee
Gone Too Soon Too Far
The Fjords of Zimbabwe
Dental Research '72
Smoke Gutter
3,000,000 Years From Here
Soon Too Far Gone Far
Blackmail, 'Friend or Foe?'

Friend or Foe?  (2003,  43.18)  **½

It Could Be Yours
On the Tightrope
Sunday Sister
Fast Summer
Nobody's Home (in My Home I'm Alone)
All Mine

Current availability:

Blackmail are a fairly unusual thing: a German heavy-end-of-indie band, singing in English, who could easily be taken for American. I'm not saying this is a recommendation, just that it is. 1999's Science Fiction is their second album, apparently completely remixed and reissued the following year as Do Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?. If it wasn't for the grungy, downtuned guitars, this could be yer typical wussy indie stuff, with those rather fey vocals that make you want to give the vocalist a slap. Why do these bands bother? Rumoured Mellotron on the album, but upon listening, it seems it isn't to be. Opener Londerla features flutes and choir, although a choir chord at the end of the song holds several seconds too long to be 'real', giving the sample game away, with more flutes on Mu.

2003's Friend or Foe? is marginally better, largely due to being more energetic; its predecessor's strong undercurrent of wussy indie has been replaced by a steelier backbone, which isn't to say it's a great album, merely better. Best track? Probably nine-minute closer Friend, if only for its epic scope. On the fakeotron front, we get strings on openers Airdrop and Evon plus choirs on All Mine for good measure, all fairly muted. In all honestly, Science Fiction bored me rigid; landfill indie? Friend or Foe? is better, but that shouldn't be taken as any kind of recommendation.

Official site

See: Scumbucket

Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band  (US)

Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band, 'Landmarks'

Landmarks  (2014,  53.13)  ***½

Down River
State Lines
He Died Fighting
Friends Call Her Dot
Farewell Bluebird
Bonnie Be Good

Current availability:

Jazz drummer Brian Blade formed the Fellowship Band in the late '90s, the ensemble moving away from 'traditional' jazz as their career's progressed. 2014's Landmarks is their fifth album, a not especially jazzy release that uses standard jazz instrumentation (sax, piano) in frequently extended compositions (notably Ark.La.Tex and Farewell Bluebird) in a style I can only describe as 'tense yet relaxed', which probably makes no sense to anyone except me. Highlights include the title track and Marvin Sewell's ripping guitar work on Farewell Bluebird, but, aside from being a little overlong, there's very little to fault here.

General opinion seems to be that producer Jon Cowherd's Mellotron use is limited to woozy, just-under-a-minute opener Down River, but the handful of low flute notes don't inspire me to leap up and down, crying "Real Mellotron!" I could be wrong, but... Overall, then, a fine, understated record that shouldn't upset too many haters of the genre. Jazz for people who don't like jazz.

Official site

Bleach  (US)

Bleach, 'Bleach'

Bleach  (1999,  48.31)  *½

Straight Shooter
Once Again Here We Are
The Race
All That's Sweet
All to You
Sun Stands Still
What Will Your Anthem Be

Current availability:

Bleach are the kind of Christian rock band whose lyrics are largely un-overt enough not to offend the public at large, although their music still sucks. 1999's Bleach is a tedious pop/rock effort, replete with the obligatory whiny vocals and insipid melodies that the style seems to demand these days, even when the band rocks it up a bit, as on the strangely lifeless Sun Stands Still.

Pete Stewart allegedly plays Mellotron, but when it finally appears on closer What Will Your Anthem Be, the strings are quite clearly samples, especially obvious on the high notes. So why have you credited this guy with 'Mellotron', eh? Usual sample bullshit... If it's samples, don't credit fucking Mellotron, OK? Bah.

Mike Bloom  (US)

Mike Bloom, 'King of Circles'

King of Circles  (2011,  42.53)  ***

Til it's Over
Butcher's Paper
Afterthought to War
Red Light, Green Light
Gold Mine
Anything But This
Dry Land
Your Heart Left Town
Floataway Sinner
Devil's Island
Top of the World
King of Circles

Current availability:

Mike Bloom has connections with Rilo Kiley and The Strokes, amongst others, releasing his first solo album, King of Circles, in 2011. Although flawed, it's vastly better than the usual run of weepy singer-songwriter drivel, male or female, highlights including Red Light, Green Light and Dry Land, although, at least in my opinion, his talents become more dissipated when he attempts upbeat material (case in point: Anything But This).

Bloom is credited with Mellotron, but the strings on Anything But This, Dry Land (under real ones) and the title track are fairly clearly sampled, particularly noticeable during the record's closing seconds. An album of two halves, then; not all of its poppier tracks are failures, but enough are to knock stars from its rating.


Blue Giant  (US)

Blue Giant, 'Target Heart EP'

Target Heart EP  (2009,  18.52)  ***

Target Heart
Blue Sunshine
Lonely Girl
Clean the Clock
Gone for Good
Hell or High Water

Current availability:

Blue Giant are something of a Portland, Oregon 'indie supergroup', comprising members of The Decemberists, Swords and Viva Voce, amongst others, whose first release, 2009's Target Heart EP, is a decent enough country/indie/psych/folk affair, without being anything startling. Its male/female vocal approach works better on some tracks than others, to be honest, better efforts including Clean The Clock and closer Hell Or High Water.

Evan Railton plays what's credited as Mellotron on Hell Or High Water, although given that at least one of the outfits that contributed members to the band (specifically, Viva Voce) have used samples and that the flute part on the track sounds a bit ropey, into samples it goes. Incidentally, the vinyl version adds versions of Goffin & King's Wasn't Born To Follow (as covered by The Byrds) and The Kinks' Got To Be Free, but I've no idea whether or not the 'Mellotron' turns up on either of them.

Official site

Blue Seeds  (Québec)

Blue Seeds, 'The Blue Seeds'

The Blue Seeds  (2008,  44.31)  **½

Outside the Rain Falls
Lost Highway
That Night in Amsterdam
A Quick Killing in Art
Lost and Delirious
Cars Go By
My Fair Weather Friend
Black Birds
Words From a Fairytale
I Dream a Little Dream

Current availability:

The Blue Seeds are a female-fronted French-Canadian noirish outfit, whose eponymous 2008 debut has echoes of the pre-psych mid-'60s and Burt Bacharach amongst its influences. It's one of those albums where a couple of tracks sound really impressive, but a whole (even if 'vinyl-length') record starts to drag after a while. The lengthy Words From A Fairytale is probably the best track, at least for readers of this site, but a little goes a long way, I think.

Producer Dustin O'Halloran, from The Devics, plays 'Mellotron', with strings on Barcelona, choirs on Words From A Fairytale and flutes on I Dream A Little Dream, although since the choirs are quite clearly samples, it seems reasonable to assume that the other sounds are, too. Overall, then, a pretty downbeat release that definitely has its moments, just not quite enough of them to give it a higher rating.

Official site

Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers  (US)

Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers, 'Loved Wild Lost'

Loved Wild Lost  (2015,  41.27)  ***

Only Always
Waiting on Love
Queen of the Radio
Mr. Saturday Night
Love Your Loved Ones
Heart Gets Tough
Simpler Times
Me and Slim
High Neck Lace
Heavy Hey Ya

Current availability:

Californian Nicki Bluhm assembled The Gramblers in 2008, her husband Tim hailing from The Mother Hips, although it seems that he's subsequently separated from both his wife and the band. His last album with them (their fourth), 2015's Loved Wild Lost, is that seemingly rarest of things, a really good country record, clearly country, yet without the schmaltz. Top tracks include the vaguely Byrdsian Waiting On Love, Heartache, Heart Gets Tough and one of the most countryish songs here, perhaps surprisingly, High Neck Lace.

Tim is credited with Mellotron, but, given that those are real strings on Love Your Loved Ones and High Neck Lace, the only possibility is the very background strings on Queen Of The Radio; if so, I'm quite sure they're sampled, so here it is and here it stays until/unless I hear anything to the contrary. So; a country album for those allergic to country, but almost certainly no real Mellotron.

Official site

See: The Mother Hips

Bluvertigo  (Italy)

Bluvertigo, 'Zero (Ovvero la Famosa Nevicata dell'85)'

Zero (Ovvero la Famosa Nevicata dell'85)  (1999,  66.38)  **½

La Crisi
La Comprensione
Finché Saprai Spiegarti
Lo Psicopatico
Always Crashing in the Same Car
Saxs Interlude
Porno Muzik
Niente X Scontato
Punto di Non Arrivo

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

On their third album, 1999's Zero (Ovvero la Famosa Nevicata dell'85), Italy's Bluvertigo attempt an indie/electronica/rock/dance thing, sounding like the bastard sons of, say, Depeche Mode that veers between appalling and actually quite acceptable. Better moments include the rock'n'roll of Finché Saprai Spiegarti, where the band mock-claim to've been working with a host of famous names, from Fellini to Eno and the Arabic strings on Autofraintendimento to the sparse Numero, although trimming maybe twenty dead minutes from the disc would've actually improved it on several levels.

A certain David Richards is credited with Mellotron on their cover of Bowie's Low centrepiece Always Crashing In The Same Car, to which I can only say: bullshit rubbish. Those strained, heavily effected strings? I think not. Anyway, an album that could be listenable if judiciously edited, but ends up being overlong and indigestible.


Phillip Boa & the Voodooclub  (Germany)

Phillip Boa & the Voodooclub, 'Loyalty CD' Phillip Boa & the Voodooclub, 'Loyalty LP'

Loyalty  (2012,  52.18/65.55)  **

Black Symphony
Ernest 2
Til the Day We Are Both Forgotten
Sunny When it Rains
My Name is Lemon
Under a Bombay Moon Soon
Lobster in the Fog
You Are Beautiful and Strange
Dream on Planet Cherry
When the Wall of Voodoo Breaks
[Bonus tracks:
Blue Film and the Jilted Lover
In Pastel Blue]

Current availability:

As stated in my regular reviews, Ernst Ulrich "Phillip Boa" Figgen is a German new wave type who has released albums regularly since the mid-'80s, seemingly changing musical style with the current fashion. As a result, 2012's Loyalty has a 'so contemporary it'll be out of date next year' production, combining indie guitar pop, alt.rock and electronica into a rather unappetising stew typified by tracks like Want or Til The Day We Are Both Forgotten.

Detlef "Tött" Götte is credited with Mellotron, but the strings on Til The Day We Are Both Forgotten, Under A Bombay Moon Soon, Lobster In The Fog, You Are Beautiful And Strange and When The Wall Of Voodoo Breaks really don't convince, despite Boa's previous (presumed) genuine Mellotron use. As if that makes any difference. Sorry, but I can't recommend this on any level; some of Boa's earlier work is OK, but this is just tiresome.

Official site

See: Phillip Boa & the Voodooclub

BOaT  (Japan)

BOaT, 'Listening Suicidal'

Listening Suicidal  (2000,  54.36)  ***

Listening 40 (Burn Up the Club '99)
Planet Foxy
Kyogen Message
Goodbye My Strange Number 28
Giniro Utsu Jikan
Lucky Suicidal
Daida Destroy & Search
No Message
Kumo Bannin B to Tsuribito A
Don't You
Listening 40 (Close Your Eyes '00)

Current availability:

So who are BOaT, anyway? Little-known in the West, it seems, they combine metal guitars with pop and funk rhythms, sampled and distorted vocals mixing with poppy harmonies in an unusual juxtaposition. I won't pretend I got an awful lot out of what appears to be their third album, 2000's Listening Suicidal, but at least it doesn't just meekly copy whoever's top of the bloody pops whenever it's recorded, like [insert one of a million names here].

A.S.E. apparently plays Mellotron, with flutes in a few places, notably on Kumo Bannin B To Tsuribito A, with an interesting pitchbend just before the song steps up a gear, but also a way, way over eight-second note towards the end, making me think... Samples. So; sort-of interesting. sort-of not, but at least you can say it doesn't sound like anybody else.

Robbert Bobbert & the Bubble Machine  (US)

Robbert Bobbert & the Bubble Machine, 'Robert Bobbert & the Bubble Machine'

Robbert Bobbert & the Bubble Machine  (2009,  22.14)  ***½

I am a Clock
We R Super Heroes
Hey Little Puppy
Fee Fi Fo, Fee Fi Fum
The Little Duck
Boom Boom
The Mighty, Mighty Elephant
I Love the Animals
The Tiny Sheep

Current availability:

Robbert Bobbert (& the Bubble Machine) is the alter-ego of Robert Schneider, a.k.a. head honcho of the Elephant Six label and mainman of Apples in Stereo, whose eponymous debut mini-album is aimed fairly and squarely at the under-fives' market. And why not? Schneider channels what is clearly his encyclopaedic knowledge of rock and pop history into an exceedingly engaging set of songs that will appeal to his target audience without patronising; think: a modern, pop/rock version of Tom Paxton's kids' albums of a few decades earlier. Stylistically, this is as all over the place as you'd expect; The Beach Boys crop up, not least on charming opener I Am A Clock and Hey Little Puppy, while We R Super Heroes and Gravity channel early '80s synthpop, Boom Boom is more generically 'psych' and closer The Tiny Sheep is, fittingly for its position on the record, a lullaby.

Schneider is credited with 'Mellotron', choir samples finally turning up on The Tiny Sheep, in suitably drifting fashion. There are two obvious reasons to buy Robbert Bobbert & the Bubble Machine: 1) You love Schneider's work. 2) You have small children. Or 3) both. It feels slightly weird listening to this at my age, but surely great pop is great pop? Recommended.


See: Apples in Stereo

Benjamin Booker  (US)

Benjamin Booker, 'Benjamin Booker'

Benjamin Booker  (2014,  44.27)  ***

Violent Shiver
Always Waiting
Slow Coming
Wicked Waters
Have You Seen My Son?
Spoon Out My Eyeballs
Happy Homes
I Thought I Heard You Screaming
Old Hearts
Kids Never Grow Older
By the Evening

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Benjamin Booker plays a raw, authentic kind of soul/garage/blues, if you can imagine such a mixture. His eponymous 2014 debut combines his major influences in a way that, say, Black Keys fans looking for more of the same, but more so, might appreciate. Best tracks? I'll admit that the album doesn't especially appeal to me, but opener Violent Shiver, Slow Coming and Have You Seen My Son? seem to do the most with their component parts.

Ben Trimble's credited with Mellotron. Where? I think I heard a background something that wasn't the album's ubiquitous Hammond, but, given that the recording venue, 'all-analog' Nashville studio The Bomb Shelter, doesn't own one, I think the chances of there being any genuine tape-replay involvement are minimal. Good at what it does, then, assuming you like what it does.

Official site

Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles  (US)

Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles, 'Diamonds in the Dark'

Diamonds in the Dark  (2007,  40.29)  ***

The Day We Met
Come Back to Me
Stop and Think it Over
Around 9
Lonely Town of Love
False Eyelashes
Modern Trick
Belle of the Bar
Open Up Your Back Door
Lord Only Knows
Blind Love
Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles, 'The Stars Are Out'

The Stars Are Out  (2009,  34.46)  ***

Do it for Free
Yesterday's Love
Me and Your Ghost
Being With You
No One Will Ever Love You
I'll Show You How
Ride With Me
It Comes to Me Naturally
Better at the End of the Day

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Sarah Borges (with or without her Broken Singles) is the kind of country singer it's vaguely acceptable to like in hip circles; influenced more by X than, say, Patsy Cline (although I believe she's acceptable-to-hipsters, too), her punk sensibilities lurch through the otherwise calm surface of her second album, Diamonds in the Dark. The rest of the album's taken up with low-fi maudlin 'cry in your beer'-type alt.country, which, while doubtless entirely unacceptable to the poor sods who grew up with this stuff for real, is actually listenable to those of us to whom C&W is a quaint diversion from another country. Er, so to speak. Paul Q. Kolderie is credited with Mellotron, but assuming it's actually present at all, it's so expertly hidden in the mix that it's entirely inaudible, at least to my ears, so 'samples' it is.

Her/their follow-up, 2009's The Stars Are Out, while still essentially alt.country, is a far more rocking proposition than its predecessor, the more rock'n'roll end of things including opener Do It For Free and the harmonica-fuelled I'll Show You How, while better ballads included Ride With Me and closer Symphony. Someone calling himself Jabe "Charlie the Bubble Palantino" Beyer allegedly plays Mellotron, with what sounds like sampled strings under real ones on Symphony, although the strings on No One Will Ever Love You are quite clearly real.

So; more alt.country with a rock'n'roll bent, but little obvious samplotron, let alone Mellotron.

Official site

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