Tuesday, 5 April 2016
Oliver: Bongwater - Love Song (25 January 1992)
It's always a mistake to judge bands by their names. OK, if they're arch ironists then it's possible that you could be persuaded into thinking that Extreme Noise Terror are actually a bunch of beard stroking folkies or blank-eyed shaven headed synthpoppers. But nevertheless, you should always wait till you've heard a band first before forming any judgement on what they are going to be like. I maintain an open mind and wait to be enchanted by Prosthetic Cunt for example.
All right, I'll come clean - I was as prejudiced as a UKIP voter in Clacton about this sort of thing until hearing Bongwater's Love Song on the 25/1/92 show. I'd seen their names before on Peel websites. Indeed, I spent a lot of time thinking that they and Bogshed were the same band. I knew all about Bongwater without having to hear them though. Hippies from Gloucestershire singing sub Magic Mushroom Band ditties while sporting dreadful Levitation style haircuts. Ug and indeed h.
Well I was right about the psychedelic element, and one half of Bongwater, Mark Kramer, sports a dreadful haircut - attempting to channel both Brian May AND Anita Dobson - in this astonishing performance of a Roky Erikson song, You Don't Love Me Yet. But they weren't hippies from Gloucestershire, they were art Dadaists from New York with a highly developed sense of the ridiculous, a bucketload of psychedelic classics that they wanted to cover, a finely tuned knack of writing their own great songs and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of ideas that gave their songs the feel of mini-theatre of the absurd epics. They struck me as what Half Man Half Biscuit would have sounded like had they been metropolitan Americans with a liking for acid pop.
Starting out with a string interlude that sounds like the players have been tranquillised, the song proper starts with a guitar riff that fuses together Mona, Faith and Not Fade Away before Ann Magnuson begins her plea to be loved as she is and not made to change or forced to do so. It put me in mind of one of the great songs that takes the need for warts and all acceptance by a lover, Don't Make Me Over.
I love this song and given the few other examples of their work I've heard before writing this, including the nine minute drugs/Richard Gere/Pretty Woman baiting Folk Song, (which according to the ever accurate barometer of YouTube comments is from an album showcasing Bongwater at their most accessible) I think I'm in love with Bongwater, who have grabbed my interest and attention in a way that few acts have since I started this blog. I'm only grateful that I wasn't falling under this spell in early 1992 given that Bongwater disbanded that year after releasing their fourth album, The Big Sell-Out. I can't imagine how gutted I would have been by that. Whether they turn up on this blog again is in the lap of Peel's running orders. Remember, The Pixies pretty much turned their toes up as a going concern in 1992, and Peel didn't revisit them very often afterwards. But one day, Box of Bongwater will be in my record collection, and I will thank them and John Peel for that.
Video courtesy of Virgil Pink.