Sunday, 13 March 2011
49 Giants - The Bolshoi
Purchased : October 1985
Tracks : Fly / Sliding Seagulls / Hail Mary / Giants / Happy Boy / By The River
This was one of two LPs bought on the same day on a Friday afternoon visit to the shopping centre in Leeds. As a mini-LP it was available at mid-price and was bought on the strength of the single "Happy Boy " which I'd heard a couple of times on the Janice Long show. I was also on the lookout for an upcoming guitar band with serious lyrics that I could sell to Sean, still wanting to taste-shape. I clearly remember that this is the one I played first.
The Bolshoi were from Yeovil and had previously released one poorly-received single "Sob Story" (not included here ) on Beggar's Banquet. They played a form of Goth-lite with - sometimes at least - an ear for melody and songs that were more rooted in every day provincial life than their peers.
"Fly" is fairly typical, a song of bedsit ennui and desire to escape. The first few bars suggest Rat Trap but it settles into a Goth rock mode with heavy snare, strutting bass and dense acoustic strumming allowing singer/guitarist Trevor Tanner to swoop around with Keith Levine slashes. It's a decent opening track.
"Sliding Seagulls" is a curate's egg of a song with discordant guitar sounds rubbing up against Paul Clark's keyboards on the tuneful bridge. It's not altogether pleasant with distasteful references to a leper and a suggestion that it's being sung from the point of view of a mentally -ill person - "So I'm out for the day". You also start to notice Tanner's mannered singing style, always likely to speak the next line in a camp voice like a modern day Rex Harrison.
"Hail Mary" conjures up a Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael scenario of small town envy at the one that got away - "She don't come down the club anymore" but it seems only half-formed. The first verse is an incoherent jumble of naff rhymes made worse by Tanner's grating self-indulgent key shifts . There's not enough melody either to compensate for the tom-tom battery throughout the song. You don't blame Mary for wanting to get away from this.
The title track opens Side Two and doesn't improve matters. Lacking either tune or chorus it's a very sub-Banshees slab of Goth rock about nightmares except that Jan Kalicki's pedestrian tub-thumping doesn't hold a candle to Budgie's work. The added colour of icy piano chords and harmonica doesn't help much. It concludes with Tanner's nursery rhyme incantation spinning out the song to nearly 5 minutes.
Relief is on hand with "Happy Boy" a tale of illicit gay love - "moving it up with a friend called Jimmy " and imminent escape that would have fitted in nicely on Suede's debut eight years later. This is a long version , perhaps a bit too long , but the band show a grasp of melody and song dynamics that's not in evidence elsewhere. Built around the brooding undulations of Nick Chown's bass Tanner's prowling verses explode into the tuneful chorus where Clark and Kalicki fill out the sound. Tanner even manages a brief guitar solo in the middle eight. It's head and shoulders above anything else here.
The semi-acoustic closer, "By The River" strives to be ethereal and mysterious but doesn't go anywhere after an attractive intro. There aren't enough ideas for three minutes let alone nearly six and your attention wanders.
So all told , the LP was a big disappointment. Luckily their next single was an absolute cracker so I was willing to give them another chance and write this off as a case of running before you can walk.