BMX Bandits

BMX Bandits Forever

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For a band that was only put together as something of a lark in 1985, Duglas T. Stewart's BMX Bandits proved to have surprisingly strong lasting power. They may not release a ton of albums, but when they do, their devoted fans perk right up for another serving of sweetly melodic, straight-from-the-heart indie pop. No matter who Stewart surrounds himself with, the results are always worth seeking out, and 2017's Forever is no exception. This time around, Stewart's main musical sidekick is Stuart Kidd -- drummer for bands like Linden and Gulp, member of the Pearlfishers, and half of Dr Cosmo's Tape Lab -- and the pair have crafted an intimate album that revolves around aspects of deep romantic love, covering the pain and the joy in equal amounts. Some songs are either newly written by Stewart or in collaboration with others, and some are familiar, with touching covers of Marcos Valle's "Mais Do Que Valsa" and the Beach Boys' "Forever," and a surprising run through West Side Story's "Somewhere." Stewart's vocals are fashionably uncool, with his emotions sitting right on his sleeve ready to be knocked off at the merest glance. Whether he's lamenting lost love and dashed hopes (like on the pain-wracked "Rust"), getting ready for something new and nice (the very cute "Saveoursmiles"), in the early stages of deep infatuation ("It's in Her Eyes"), or detailing the last breakup ("How Not to Care"), Stewart doesn't pull any punches with his lyrics or his voice. It's all honest and true and, unlike some of the band's past work, it's not even a tiny bit frivolous. No jokes; just 16 small missives of truth wrapped in sugary melodies and packed up in truly beautiful arrangements crafted by Kidd and collaborators like Joe Kane (his partner in Dr Cosmo's Tape Lab) and the Pearlfishers' David Scott. They mix classic Beach Boys-style production with jangling toytown psychedelia and soft rock shimmer, making this one of the most sumptuous Bandits records yet. The presence of Chloe Philip adds much to the band's sound too; her vocals are strong while still feather-light, and the song she contributes, "Love Me 'Til My Heart Stops," is one of the record's best. To balance the (bitter) sweetness and light found elsewhere, Stewart brought in Anton Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre to collaborate on a track, and the snarling, ominous (for the Bandits anyway) "Razorblades & Honey" is the surprisingly good result. Stewart should consider doing an entire album of moody '60s dark pop like this; his tender vocals sound perfect against the dark backdrop. He also sounds at home on the corny pop ballads, swinging guitar janglers, soft rock keyboard ballads, and tender confessionals that make up the rest of BMX Bandits Forever. It's one of the best records of their long run, and if Stewart and company keep making them this good, this real and this emotionally fulfilling, one can only hope they keep doing it forever.

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