BMX Bandits

Serious Drugs: The Creation Anthology

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In 1993, Scottish indie pop legends the BMX Bandits landed on Creation Records, staying long enough to release three albums and many singles before leaving in 1996. As evidenced by their fine 1991 Vinyl Japan release, Star Wars, they had moved away from the indie pop sound of their early singles on 53rd & Third and 1990's excellent C86 album on the tiny Click label. Perhaps due to the presence (and ongoing influence after their departure in 1994) of Teenage Fanclub mainstay Norman Blake and future Superstar maestro Joe McAlinden, the group now had a full-bodied sound full-up with jangling guitars, soaring vocal harmonies, and wonderful chamber pop embellishments. Add to that the inimitable vocal stylings of Duglas Stewart and the fine songwriting by Stewart and longtime Bandit Francis MacDonald, and you have one of the great, if underrated, guitar pop bands of the '90s. Indeed, their first single for Creation, "Serious Drugs," is one of the great pop singles of the era if not all time. This 2005 collection on Sanctuary, also titled Serious Drugs, rounds up songs from their three albums, 1993's Life Goes On, 1995's Gettin' Dirty, and 1996's Theme Park, along with various singles, an unreleased version of a tune ("Scar"), and "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" from a 1998 tribute to Burt Bacharach. The songs are very well chosen, picking up some of their chiming ballads like the aforementioned classic "Serious Drugs," the ravishing "It Hasn't Ended" (with Joe McAlinden on vocals), "Little Hands," and "Girl Next Door," as well as lighthearted romps like the silly "Kylie's Got a Crush on Us," a super-relaxed cover of Jonathan Richman's "That Summer Feeling" (with legendary soul songwriter Dan Penn taking a verse), and the rocking "(We're Gonna) Shake You Down." Add to that uniquely BMX moments, like the cover of Beat Happening's "Cast a Shadow," "Space Girl," and "One Big Heart," where Stewart's big-hearted, goofy, and 100 percent endearing persona runs mild. Taken together, it is a wonderful portrait of a band that never really got its due -- who knows, maybe this collection will bring the BMX Bandits some long-overdue recognition. Probably not, though. Music this intimate, relaxed, and private almost never does. Oh well -- it can stay a wonderful secret, a sacred text for those lucky in-the-know souls.

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