Friday, October 16, 2020

Duff Guide to Ska Bullet Points: The Bakesys, Eric Blowtorch and the Bodyguards, The Man on the Bridge (AKA Dave Clifton)

(Reviews by Steve Shafer)
Two older women huddle under a clear plastic umbrella as they walk down a city street.
  • The Bakesys' awesome "Rainy Day Dub" is being offered as a free download in advance of their forthcoming More Bakesys full-length vinyl album (which was previously issued as a CD EP--my review of it is here). This track is the dub version of their haunting "Anything and Everything" (" falling down"), which sounds like More Specials-era Specials produced by Prince Fatty or Mungo's Hi-Fi, and is about the devastating impact of mass unemployment paired government cutbacks to public services. It was originally written in response to Teresa May's austerity measures, but it's equally relevant in this Covid-19 lockdown era. 
  • The cover illustration features an astronaut sitting on a tree limb.
     The Man on the Bridge is guitarist, singer, and songwriter Dave Clifton of the '80s UK ska act The Hotknives, who's been a member of the stellar Erin Bardwell Collective as of late. This six-track EP Million Miles Away (CD/digital, Pop-A-Top Records, 2020) is a collection of new studio recordings engineered by Erin Bardwell, who gives Clifton's terrific mood and memory evoking (rather than storytelling) songs a touch of his "dream-ska" sound (Bardwell plays keys and sings, too). Hotknives fans will hone in on "Don't Blame Me," a great Marley-ish reggae track known as "Dave's Song" that was in that band's live set in the '80s but never recorded in the studio, and the heartbreaking she's-leaving-me "Believe It" (from their 1990 debut album on Unicorn Records, The Way Things Are) with Pat Powell of the Melbourne Ska Orchestra on guest vocals. "Looking Over the Land" is a rather upbeat Madness-like cut (music hall piano, sax courtesy of Paul Mumford from Too Many Crooks and The Hotknives) with lyrics by Bardwell about repeatedly encountering a seemingly lost older man all around Swindon who was apparently suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's ("I tried to talk, he walked away/Where did he used to live/That man on the bridge"). "Just Dreaming" is a fantastic rootsy dub cut featuring an ethereal flute line that soars over the rhythm track (bass by Pete Fitzsimmons, drums by Pete O'Driscoll). "Never Say Never" is a lovely, hopeful pop-reggae song about letting go of what might or might not be someday, and trying to be happy in the now ("Stumble across the front room floor/To the window on the other side/I'm looking down the garden path/That's my heart hanging on the line/Please don't give me up/(No no no)/Let's just live it up/(Yeah yeah yeah)...Let's treasure this time we got together"). The title track--my favorite on the EP--is not a Plimsouls cover, but rather a brilliant Celtic-tinged ska song about being a certain (middle) age in life and longing for what you can never have again ("I remember those nights at the fairground/'Double Barrel' playin' on the sound system/This big wheel keeps turning 'round/Switch back screams the smell of candyfloss/Somebody calls out your name/You look around, but its from above/Now the O'Jays are singing 'Love Train'/You know your life will never be the same"). This is highly recommended--don't miss it!

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