Monday, December 13, 2021

Duff Review: The Bakesys "Sentences I'd Like to Hear the End Of"

The album artwork features cartoon illustrations of an astronaut, a Cold War spy, Christine Keeler, an East German soldier, and Muhammad Ali

(Review by Steve Shafer)

I'd been holding off on reviewing The Bakesys' terrific Sentences I'd Like to Hear the End Of (CD/digital, Do the Dog Music, 2021) as I thought its physical vinyl release on Jump Up Records would be soon forthcoming. However, since that label seems to have taken a bit of a detour as of late to capitalize on the 2021 resurgence of ska-punk, it feels like a disservice to the band to wait any longer. 

Like their single "Leaving the American Sector" (about the Cold War-era Berlin Wall, which I reviewed earlier this year), the songs on The Bakesys' Sentences I'd Like to Hear the End Of are concerned with significant figures and events from 1960s world history, while employing a late 1980s UK traditional ska sound crossed with electro/dance beats and toasting/rapping that was practiced by Maroon Town, Potato 5 (on True Fact), House of Rhythm, and others (it was a cousin to the brief 1989 ska-acid fad--see Longsy D et al--but better, with the exception of Buster Bloodvessel's killer mix of "This is Ska").

Most of Sentences I'd Like to Hear the End Of's uniformly excellent tracks judiciously incorporate offbeat found sound clips from contemporary '60s TV/radio news reports that hint at the event/figure being referenced without being obviously direct--and work exceptionally well (though some of their added spoken word/rapping bits play better than others).

The title track is about the model/showgirl Christine Keeler, who was sexually involved with both a married British cabinet member and a Soviet naval attaché, which, when came to light, became tabloid fodder and sparked all sorts of embarrassing national security concerns (The Skatalites, of course, recorded an instrumental named after her, and Keeler also was the subject of the 1989 movie Scandal, whose 1960s ska soundtrack was selected by The Trojans' Gaz Mayall). "638 Ways They Tried" comments on the number of times the CIA attempted to assassinate Cuba's communist dictator Fidel Castro; and the Clash-referencing "Atomic Invasion" ("When Ivan meets GI Joe/Well, we all know how this is going to go/The talking stops and the missiles flow...Well, if the blast don't kill ya/Then the fallout's gonna get ya") conveys the almost universal Cold War dread of nuclear war, which, of course, came very close to happening in '61 with the Cuban Missile Crisis. The horror show of both JFK and Bobby Kennedy's assassinations are captured in the tense and mournful "We Don't Need Another Oswald," where we hear snippets of Bobby's last speech and then the immediate, awful aftermath of his murder. We hear people urging others to secure the gun and to keep people away from Sirhan Sirhan; they don't want him killed by vigilantes before he is brought to trial, as in the case of JFK's assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, who was killed by Jack Ruby.

The three dubs--"Go Dub Go," "Bernauer Strasse Dub," and "Desolation Dub" (a version of "Get Your Moon Boots On")--are exceptionally good. Buzz Aldrin, the second human to step foot on the Moon, described the moonscape as "magnificent desolation." One of the major--and ironic--discoveries of the Apollo Moon program was the realization of how precious our own life-sustaining planet is (William Shatner said of his suborbital experience that after leaving Earth's blue atmosphere, the black of space was like "death"). Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders, who took the famous "Earthrise" photo remarked, "We set out to explore the Moon and instead discovered the Earth."

I wonder if The Bakesys will take on the '70s next--there's lots of good material (Watergate, Vietnam War, Iranian Hostages, Jonestown, Camp David Accords, Three Mile Island, Reagan and Thatcher, and so much more!)...

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