Formed in 1981 by the leaders of the incredibly influential British pop label Creation, Alan McGee and Dick Green, Biff Bang Pow! crafted emotionally powerful songs and delivered them wrapped in a jangly, guitar-driven style that touched on folk-rock, British Invasion, and psychedelic pop sounds. Waterbomb is the definitive collection of highlights from their decade-long existence. Produced and selected by the redoubtable Joe Foster, who along with many of British pop's scenemakers like Andrew Innes, Ed Ball, and Phillip King spent some time in the band, this disc illustrates just how wonderful the group was.
There are at least three songs on here that should be considered classics of the era: "There Must Be a Better Life," which has one of the group's most dissatisfied and angry lyrics over a jangling, searching melody topped by one of McGee's finest vocals (which, despite what many cloth-eared critics claimed, are never anything less than good and are often quite moving); "Love's Going Out of Fashion," which rides ramshackle acoustic guitars and harmonica and careens like the Cure at their most pop (with McGee's vocals eerily similar to Robert Smith's); and the marvelous "She's Got Diamonds in Her Hair," a beautiful aching ballad that shifts from a low-key jazz-ish verse to a chorus that shines like, well, a diamond. The rest of the disc is quality from top to bottom. Unlike the U.S. release Bertula Pop, which seemed to concentrate more on the later stage of the group's career when Biff Bang Pow! was specializing in quiet, bleak, and heartbroken ballads like "She Paints" or the shattered "Baby You Just Don't Care," Waterbomb captures the exciting element of the band as well. Tracks like "The Beat Hotel," with sultry female vocals and chiming guitar solo, the bouncing Byrds-influenced "Fifty Years of Fun" (the band's first single), and the rollicking "Miss California Toothpaste 1972" belie the group's reputation as miserablists, sonically at least.
The lyrics are another matter; angry, bitter, and at times even suicidal (especially after McGee went through some difficult personal times), they are not exactly sunny, but they do lend the sometimes feather-light melodies some very powerful weight. Biff Bang Pow! always created a very adult brand of teen pop and always did it very well, as this collection shows. So if you were a fan of the band back in the day or are just finding out about the group from one of the bands like Comet Gain, the Tyde, or Lovejoy, who can be found trumpeting the virtues of Biff Bang Pow! to all who will listen, this is an essential collection of late 80s/early 90s guitar pop.
Here are the picks to click from the album:
"There Must Be a Better Life"
"Love's Going Out of Fashion"
"She's Got Diamonds in Her Hair"
"She Never Understood"
"Someone Stole My Wheels"