|Bleu - 'Four' (Lojinx)|
|Written by Russ P|
|Sunday, 24 October 2010 05:00|
Only 13 months ago I was loving and recommending Bleu's third album 'A Watched Pot' and now this heir to the power-pop throne has another new album out and he's got a label over here in the UK to release it too. Furthermore it's scheduled for release earlier here than in his native America.
In last year's review for 'A Watched Pot' I was lamenting that some of the tracks on Bleu's 'Four/AWP' EP should have been included on 'The Watched Pot' album - 'Dead In The Mornin'' for one. As it turns out these tracks were always meant as an appetiser of things to come with half of the six destined for 'Four'. A further 2 tracks that made the cut could be heard via Bleu's sneak peek preview to the 'Four' album which the faithful could listen to online as early as November last year. I say 2 tracks but there is a third - 'My Own Personal Jesus' which is a bonus track. So with half of the album already known to me how will the 5 'new' tracks fit around those? And can Bleu keep up his already high standards?
Just like his 'Four/AWP' EP Bleu's new album kicks off with 'Singin' In Tongues' - nice move - it's a highly infectious singalong with a Dylanesque delivery in the verses and very much packed with Dylanesque stream of consciousness lyrics full of unusual word substitutions that convey the feelings of madness, drunkeness and shows lyrical experimentation on Bleu's part.
Second track is one of the new-uns. 'B.O.S.T.O.N.' is a proud love song of sorts to the place that Bleu has chosen to call home - the place where he's been for much of his musical career up until he recently moved to L.A. It's in the spirit of Catatonia's 'International Velvet' where they sing "Thank The Lord I'm Welsh". It's the kind of anthem that you could imagine the Boston Red Sox playing at home games to get the crowd going. On a more surreal note can you imagine the band Boston either covering this tune or using it as their intro song when they next play live? This song could even be regarded as a sequel or response to 'I Won't Go Hollywood' - from Bleu's 'Redhead' album - as it gives the message that he may be gone 'Hollywood' but he's not going to ever forget Boston. And maybe this is another song that will be playing at Bleu's funeral. Within this song he name-checks another song from this album - 'Dead In The Mornin'' thereby recording his last will and testament. What a novel way of making funeral arrangements!
I already mentioned last year that 'Dead In The Mornin'' was the happiest most depressing song that I've ever heard. And I still stand by that. Despite its morbid centrepiece it's a brilliant celebration of life. Throughout it Bleu joyous bequeaths all of his worldly belongings to his friends and loved ones - he leaves his piano to the corner bar and his favourite guitar to drummer and co-producer Ducky Carlisle. I wonder if Ducky would prefer it now while Bleu's still alive?
Sitting back in a darkened room with the sound of rain close outside and enjoying what sounds like a cigarette and a glass of Scotch, Bleu has a soulful moment of enlightenment when he realises that he's 'In Love With My Lover'. The twist to this song is that it's written about someone who's already in a long-term relationship which speaks volumes about the male psyche.
'When The Shit Hits The Fan' is another brand new song for me and it's a corker and more than delivers last year's promise of how good this album was going to be. The format of the song is classic 'Sam Cooke' soul with spine-tingling vocal melody and delivery from Bleu. With such a 'perfect' song unfolding in front of me I can't help but be drawn to the lyrics and, of course, the song title. Without it I'm sure that this is a song that many artists would fall over themselves to cover. But it's surely me that's behind the times. For sure, in his time, Frank Sinatra would probably pass on a song like this. But fast-forward to our brave new world and we've got worldwide smashes like Outkast's 'Roses' and Cee-Lo Green's 'Fuck You' either hitting the top spot or just missing by a whisker. 'The Times They Are a-Changin''.
'I'll Know It When I See It' is a high energy pop song that has the quirkiness of XTC, Bourgeois Tagg and Todd Rundgren - which, with some quick maths, all have the same common denominator of Todd Rundgren - why waste words? The following two tracks both retain some kind of strange about them. 'Evil Twin' should be familiar to most of us who know a friend who just happens to be a nasty drunk - don't you just love them? And 'Ya Catch More Flies With Honey Than Vinegar' is like a therapeutic self-talk exercise that we should all have with ourselves from time to time - a gentle wake-up call to all us sad and jaded people who have become blind to the beauty in the world. The song also has a UK cousin in my opinion. And that's Flyscreen's '14 5ft4'. They both share a distracted other-worldly quality - like a deeply anaesthetised person blearily walking around in the countryside blinking like a baby in the harsh light of a world that they're seeing for the first time.
If you think that 'Everything Is Fine' sounds like a Jellyfish rip-off just stand down. Hold your horses. Cause Roger Manning Jr. is in the house ladies and gentleman. How can it not sound like Jellyfish? The combo of Manning and Bleu works so well together that I feel like little Oliver: "Please sir, I want some more." Bleu expertly lays down some trickling finger-pinking on his acoustic while Roger lends his trademark backing vocals and keyboards. A collaboration like this wouldn't be complete without harpsichord, xylophone and strings would it?
Am I supposed to mention the bonus track? I'm not sure. But, since it's another great song it would be remiss of me not to. 'My Own Personal Jesus' is a true bonus in the very sense of the word - it's not a hidden track pushed away at the back of the record - it's a little gem - an encore if you will. Talking of UK cousins - as I did earlier - this track, lyrically, reminds me of John Lennon's 'God' - whilst Lennon rejects the spiritual Bleu leans towards salvation although the conclusion for both Lennon and Bleu is the same - the only thing that you can truly believe in is yourself.
Well I believe in Bleu too. How could I not? He's firing on all cylinders lately and shows no sign of fatigue. This album will easily make my top ten list for 2010 as did his last album 'A Watched Pot' in 2009. Let's hope that Bleu has made more believers as he harvests souls at the culmination of his first tour of the UK.